SOCCER pundit Paul Merson swapped the television studio for Westfields Football Club’s 25th annual sportsman’s dinner.

The ex-Arsenal and England midfielder was the star guest among the record-breaking 320-strong audience, talking about his career and battle with gambling and drink.

Now an established pundit on Sky Sports’ popular Soccer Saturday show, the 44-year-old spoke about his early playing days at Arsenal where he blew his first apprentice wage - £100 in cash - in a bookies.

He later played for Middlesbrough, before representing the likes of Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Walsall. He showered praise on his former Arsenal boss George Graham and Glenn Hoddle, who was in charge of England during his World Cup appearance in 1998.

Now settled at Sky Sports, his stint with the broadcaster almost ended after one shift. From the studio he was assigned a Championship clash between Hull and Barnsley but had put a bet on a number of other games that night.

Just one result away from winning the bet he was waiting on the score from Crewe Alexandra’s game when he noticed a sending off had occured at Hull.

The presenter went to him for details, forcing Merson to stumble his way through the update without any knowledge of what went on.

An auction, featuring a signed Lionel Messi shirt (£780) and signed Usain Bolt poster (£400), fetched £4,210.