Soccer Saturday star Paul Merson kicks off fundraiser in Scartho
FOOTBALLING legend and Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundit Paul Merson kicked off a charity fundraiser and entertained a packed pub of fans.
The former England and Arsenal player spoke frankly about his all-star footballing career at the Seven Seas, in Scartho, to raise money for When You Wish Upon A Star and Tap And Spile FC.
Merson was known as much for his footballing career as he was his turbulent lifestyle, which often saw his name splattered across the tabloids for his antics both on and off the pitch.
Speaking exclusively to the Grimsby Telegraph, he said that although there was "no better buzz" than the one he got from playing, he enjoyed entertaining the 100-strong crowd of football fans and local players.
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He said: "That is the main thing for me.
"It is great to see so many people here, especially as it is for a charity. Whatever I can do to help I will. It is a good cause, and if I can help people raise money and awareness I will."
He talked animatedly to the fans about his career and, of course, Grimsby Town and what they have to do to climb out of the conference league.
And while he showed sympathy for the Mariners and their supporters, he wouldn't go as far as saying our fans were up there with the loyalty of Portsmouth FC supporters, who he used to manage.
Event organiser and manager of Tap And Spile FC, Simon North, said: "Paul has had a great career, he was a good player and manager and he has drawn in a big crowd for the evening. People want to hear his stories.
"He is a down-to-earth bloke, which a lot of us can relate to."
Merson also signed Tap And Spile FC, Liverpool FC and England shirts, along with copies of his autobiography.
Among the fans attending was Freddy Darnell, 24, of Grimsby, who said: "It is brilliant that someone of his stature would come to Grimsby and it is great he is doing it for charity."
Lee Dimberline, vice-captain of Tap And Spile, said: "He is one of those successful players that could change a game in a minute. I always enjoyed watching him as a kid."
And while he wasn't sure if his stories would inspire players, Lee hoped the money from the night would help improve their game, adding: "It will get us a better kit, which always makes you play better. I suppose there are similarities between him and our players, only he is a lot better at football!"
Owner of the Tap And Spile Rachael Flint hoped the evening would top their recent £1,200 fundraiser for the charity, adding: "He is a lovely guy and everyone is buzzing off it. It is great for the locals to have a celebrity here."