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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Walsall unveil Merson
Paul Merson in action for Portsmouth
I'm looking forward to meeting up with the team - they play total football here
Paul Merson
Walsall have unveiled new signing Paul Merson after he completed his move from Portsmouth.

Manager Colin Lee said the 35-year-old former England international was the club's biggest ever signing.

And Lee plans to groom Merson for a coaching and management role at the Bescot Stadium once he decides his playing days are over.

Merson has agreed a two-year deal with the club and completed a financial settlement with Portsmouth, where he had a year left to run on his contract.

Lee said they beat off the likes of Reading and Nottingham Forest to secure his signature.

"There's been a lot of hard work over the last few weeks," he said.

Record signing: Alan Buckley, 175,000, in 1979
Honours: Division 4 champions 1959-60
Ground capacity: 11,250
Record crowd: 11,037 v Wolves 2003
Average crowd (2002-03): 6,978
"We think the same way that football should be played. He's going to be learning for future management and coaching.

"I'm delighted he's come on board. He will bring a lot to the team and the football club.

"To achieve his signature is something I don't think anyone even dreamed of.

"We've got to make sure we get better results than last year. I'm hoping Paul and the other new signings will make us a better team and take this club forward, which was always my intention."

Merson helped steer Pompey to the First Division title last season and his move to Walsall represents a coup for Lee.

The 35-year-old said the chance to play for a club closer to home was behind the move.

"I'm looking forward to meeting up with the team - they play total football here," he said. "It's a fresh new challenge and we'll see what happens.

"I travelled 30-35,000 miles last season. Part of the deal with Portsmouth was that I had days off, but this year Harry Redknapp said that I wouldn't have days off.

"I thought that would be impossible. I wanted to get home to the Midlands.

"I had a great time at Portsmouth. The players were a different class - it was a team effort last year and I'd like to thank all the players down there."

Pompey boss Redknapp paid tribute to the former Arsenal, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa star.

"He did a great job for me last year and I'm forever grateful for what he did," Redknapp told this website.

"He was a major reason why we got where we did last year he did fantastic for us.

"But he doesn't feel he can play in the Premier now and I think he knows himself better than anybody.

"He said he played in the Premier League two years ago and found it difficult, so he certainly didn't think it was going to be easier now.

"There's a massive difference between where we've come from and the Premier but he'll do a great job for Walsall."

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