IN 2001, Paul Merson scored the goal that ousted one of his club’s rivals.
But the joy of the goal was far from the first thing on his mind as Aston Villa faced Coventry.
Arsenal legend Merse told Sky Sports in 2020: “It was the year the FA Cup Final was played ahead of the last matchday of the season and my brother had a bachelorette party the weekend of the FA Cup Final, which I organized in Orlando.” .
“We played against Coventry in the penultimate week of the season.
“I went to Villa manager John Gregory and asked him if I could go to Orlando after the game and he said, ‘No problem, you can go, we don’t have a game!’
“We were 2-0 down at half-time at Villa Park. Our season was over anyway.”
“But Gregory said to me, ‘You’re not going to Orlando tomorrow if this game doesn’t turn.’
“And then, lo and behold, I scored the winning goal with the last shot of the game and Coventry went down. The next day I went to Orlando!”
“You can imagine what I said to Gregory when I got back.
“I was putting on my sunscreen while he was chatting after the game!”
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“People say that goal brought down Coventry. I don’t think so and I hope it wasn’t. It’s a long season and you shouldn’t blame just one goal for it.”
Merson spent 12 years at Arsenal, winning two league titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup.
But he is also fondly remembered for his four years at Villa, during which time the team qualified for Europe and reached the FA Cup final.
And now he’s entertaining viewers on the legendary Sky Sports show Soccer Saturday on Saturday afternoons.