On the evening of Monday 13th June 2022 tables at BOXPARK Wembley filled with 400 guests young and old, to hear the inspirational story of Paul Merson’s journey from Harlesden in Brent to the national pitches of the Premier League, as well as the International stage, earning 21 Caps for England.
As part of the Jason Roberts Foundation Inspire to Achieve Heritage Programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players, the project will uncover the untold stories of 18 footballers from Brent who paved the way for future sportspeople, and will produce exhibitions, talks, and memory cafes along the way.
Paul answered questions from freelance sports broadcaster Pippa Monique and football commentator and pundit for Sky Sports Dickie Davies with humour and honesty. Michael Adams from JRF’s Cultural Media Centre followed the professionals, and Heritage Youth Ambassadors Eyadd and Yunis demonstrated their journalistic ability on the stage in front of the packed audience.
Former professional footballer, manager, and sports television pundit for Sky Sports, Paul talked openly about the highs and lows of his professional career, starting as an Apprentice at Arsenal in 1984, before his debut for the Gunners on 22 November 1986 against Manchester City.
During the evening Paul was presented with a personally penned shirt by his former youth teammates from Forest United, the first club he played for, who celebrate their 50th anniversary next year.
Amongst the audience were some of Paul’s former teammates from Arsenal, the Mayor of Brent Cllr. Abdi Aden, Chief Executive of Brent Council Carolyn Downs, and Leader of the Council Muhammed Butt.
Otis Roberts, CEO of the JRF said of the evening; “”To have someone of Paul’s calibre as part of our Inspire to Achieve project is an honour. He is an asset to any team. Young people and future sportspeople can learn a lot from him.”
He went on to say; “We are very grateful to BOXPARK Wembley for hosting this event, Christian Klapp founder of Eversleigh LLP for sponsoring the evening, Laura Ashby from Quintain, and of course the National Lottery Heritage Fund for giving us the opportunity to uncover these untold stories so they can be preserved for current and future generations, and we hope they too will be Inspired to Achieve their dreams and goals.”