Paul Merson admits sympathy for Djed Spence as manager didn’t want him either

Antonio Conte admitting that Djed Spence wasn't his signing is a slap in the face for Tottenham's latest buy.

It's terrible when you know the manager didn't really want you. I've been in that situation myself – but I decided not to go. Years ago I had a chance to join West Brom and the club rang me up when I left Portsmouth and said they wanted to sign me.

I said: 'Brilliant. But I don't think the manager, Gary Megson, would have it.' And they said: 'It doesn't matter, we want to sign you anyway!' But it doesn't work like that. You want to sign for a manager who wants you. The manager has to like you.

READ MORE: Antonio Conte says he didn't even pick new £20m signing Djed Spence in awkward admission

I wasn't convinced Gary Megson would want me because I don't play the way he likes, but they told me they were sure he would. Gary Megson was on holiday at the time and West Brom said they would get hold of him and let me know. They rang me back three days later and said: 'Yeah, you were right, he doesn't want you!'

But I didn't mind that. I never wanted to go to a place where the manager didn't want me. The manager picks the team. Daniel Levy isn't picking the team at Tottenham. Antonio Conte is. And buying him a player he didn't ask for? That doesn't work for me. I don't like that one. You've got an elite manager there. Why mess it up. Don't upset an elite manager.

Djed Spence won't play will he? He won't get a game. And that's a shame because he's a really good player, and to be fair the likes of Emerson Royal haven't pulled up any trees. But Spurs do this a lot. They like to buy young players whether the manager wants them or not. It's happened a few times.

They've got to catch other teams up and the only way to make sure you're doing that over the long term is to make sure you're buying quality youngsters who develop. I get that. But it's not a good start if you know the manager didn't really want you. He will find it much harder in the Premier League than he did in the Championship where he was ripping it up.

Over the long term it could be a good signing. But he's obviously going to have be patient. And Conte isn't going to be there forever. It was different for me. I was coming to the end of my career. Djed Spence has his ahead of him.

In the end I went to Walsall and our first game was against West Brom and we won 4-1 and I scored two goals. Me and Gary Megson had a laugh about it. I didn't mind. I was coming to the end. I wasn't about to start kicking balls into the corner. And I didn't want to play for a club where the manager didn't want me.

Man City weaker after Sterling, Jesus and Zinchenko exits

Manchester City are WEAKER going into the new season in my opinion.

They are losing a lot of good players who have been important for them, and we don't know how quickly the new signings will adapt. It wouldn't surprise me if they start the season slowly, and you don't want to give anyone a head start in this league or it can be hard to catch up.

Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez could turn out to be the best signings ever. Haaland could be unreal. But it takes time to get used to Pep Guardiola's system. And it takes time to adapt to a new league and settle in a new country. There's no guarantee it works straight away. I think it's definitely: 'Watch this space.'

Look at Jack Grealish. That was almost like a bedding-in season for him. It took him a while to get used to it. You're taking away a lot of goals losing Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Sterling fitted the system better than anyone – no-one else scores those far-post tap-ins for them.

And Guardiola trusted Jesus in the big games. They were two reliable players. So was Oleksandr Zinchenko. And I still think they are short of one top-quality centre-half.

Jessie Lingard saga proves running down contract days are over

Jesse Lingard's situation shows that the days of any old player running their contract down are over.

I think they are gone. Unless you are top, top drawer, you're not going to leave a big club on a free and get paid a fortune to join another one. Lingard is a good player. But none of the Big Six clubs were in for him. And I can't believe Nottingham Forest are paying him a king's ransom to go there.

He was probably holding out for a big club. He could have signed for West Ham a year or so ago. But the big clubs didn't come calling. He's basically lost a season of his career sitting waiting at Manchester United and now he's going to Nottingham Forest.

No disrespect, Forest have done great and the manager is different class, but he'll be working on scraps there. He'll play games for them where he's not had a sniff of a goal.

Maybe he wants to make sure he plays every week. And fair play to him if that's the case. He's missed a lot of football. It's a short career, he's not getting any younger, and he needs to play every week. Forest need an X-Factor and Lingard can be that.


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