LONDON: Former Arsenal and England midfielder Paul Merson is making a shock return to football at the age of 49 to play for Welsh minnows Caerau.
Club secretary Dai Hooper said all the required paperwork had now come through, which means Merson is available for the home match against Pontyclun on October 18.
Merson, who won 21 England caps, was part of the Arsenal team that won the First Division championship in both 1988/89 and 1990/91 as well as the 1993 FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in 1994.
The midfielder left Highbury for Middlesbrough in 1997 and also had spells with Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall, going on to manage the Saddlers between 2004 and 2006 before taking up a role as a media pundit for Sky Sports.
"I was asked if I could play for them so I said I could if they had any midweek games, assuming they weren't any good, but now it turns out I'm playing in their derby next Wednesday," Merson told Sky Sports. "They'd better not be a good side if they're relying on me,
"I honestly thought it was the standard I play now, which is veterans' football, and the only 11-a-side matches I've played this season have been charity matches, but it turns out they're a proper league side in Wales."
Hooper hopes the presence of Merson, whom he got to know after they met at a function, can help raise the profile of the south Wales side, who play in the Welsh fourth tier.
"The international clearance has just come through this morning," Hooper said. "I tried to text Paul this morning, but he was busy at work. I have spoken to him and he is over the moon."
Caerau are currently 13th out of 16 teams in Welsh League Three, with one win and four defeats from their opening five matches.
Merson's last league appearance was a one-off game for Welshpool Town when he scored a goal in March, 2012.