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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Merson joins Portsmouth
Paul Merson has completed his move to Portsmouth
Merson has completed his move to Pompey
Former England midfielder Paul Merson has completed his free transfer from Aston Villa to First Division Portsmouth.

Merson, 34, has signed a two-year deal at Fratton Park and is expected to go straight into the side for Saturday's season opener against Nottingham Forest.

He had been unhappy that Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor planned to use him mainly as a substitute next season.

"I just want to play first-team football. I could have stayed at Villa and taken the money but ever since I was a schoolboy, I've only ever wanted to play football," said Merson.

"I feel this is an idea move for me and the chance to extend my career for a bit longer.

"What happend at Villa, I'm keeping to myself but I enjoyed myself with them and I leave with fond memories."

Merson played in Division One when he was at Middlesbrough and he said he had no qualms about playing outside of the Premiership.

"I have come to Portsmouth because I believe they are good enough to win promotion," he said.

"Dropping down a division does not bother me because if all goes well I will be back at Villa as a Pompey player next season.

Paul Merson in his Aston Villa days
Merson remain tight-lipped about his spat with Villa

The 34-year-old will make his Fratton Park debut against Nottingham Forest on Saturday in a new-look Portsmouth side which is likely to include former West Ham trio Shaka Hislop, Hayden Foxe and Svetoslav Todorov.

"The players that Harry has bought in are all quality players, and he has assembled one of the best squads in the division," said Merson.

"That attracted me, as did the club's massive fan base. I didn't want to join a club with average gates of 3,000 and I know from previous experience how passionate these fans are."

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said: "He's a fantastic signing for this club.

"He's a top-quality footballer. I've always admired him and feel he still has a lot to offer.

Merson, who cost 6.75m when John Gregory signed him for Villa from Middlesbrough, made 101 Premiership starts for the Midlanders, scoring 18 goals.

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