I loved Chelsea but my dad was a massive Arsenal fan – so I signed for Gunners instead

Paul Merson with his Arsenal team-mates
-Credit: (Image: Mirrorpix)

Paul Merson has admitted that he signed for Arsenal early in his career as his dad was a massive fan – despite supporting Chelsea himself.

The 56-year-old was joined by Jeff Stelling on the Football's Greatest podcast, answering listeners' questions about his career. One asked: "Merse, we know that you're a Chelsea fan, but I was wondering if you were ever close to joining them?" To which, the north London legend responded: "That is a good question. No I wasn't.

"When I was growing up – when I started supporting Chelsea at about five years of age – we weren't very good. We were poor, but my dad was a massive Arsenal fan and he wanted me to sign for Arsenal so I signed because of my dad. If it wasn't for my dad I wouldn't have been a professional footballer. My dad wanted me to sign for Arsenal, so I signed for Arsenal."

Stelling then went on to reveal: "But your son is involved at Chelsea now isn't he?" Merson replied: "Yeah, he's signed at Chelsea – he's just got another year so he goes into the under-10s next season.

"He's doing something that I never got to do. I did wear the Chelsea kit once in a charity game at Stamford Bridge where my hero Ray Wilkins was the manager of the Chelsea team I played for. So yeah, my boy's at Chelsea now."

Merson was a product of Arsenal's youth set-up between 1982 and 1985 before he signed his first professional contract with the north London club. Despite being loaned out to Brentford to develop as a player, the attacking midfielder would be thrust into the first team upon his return – going on to enjoy 327 appearances at Highbury and scoring 78 goals for the club.

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He would spend a year up north in Middlesbrough in 1997, before signing for Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall - where he would eventually hang up his boots in 2006.

The midfield maestro would also rack up 21 appearances for England in the 90s, scoring three goals – two against the Czech Republic on separate occasions, the other against Switzerland in '98.