GUESTS at a sportsman’s dinner were told former Middlesbrough and England star Paul Merson was forced to pull out at short notice after a cancer scare.
The former striker, who now works as a pundit on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, was due as the star attraction at a sportsman’s dinner at The Swan, in Billingham last night.
But organiser Paul Gough, of Goffy Media revealed on Twitter and Facebook that Merson had reluctantly been forced to pull out at short notice.
He then told the packed house at the event that Merson had undergone surgery after being diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.
Merson, who also played for Arsenal during a glittering career, is now expected to make a full recovery and should be back on the screens of millions on Sky Sports this weekend.
Speaking at the event, he said: “Paul has had surgery which left him with 50 stitches in his back.
“He was looking forward to coming here, but he felt he wasn’t able to make the journey up north so soon after the surgery.
“Paul is always extremely popular at these events and he apologised for having to pull out, he assures me he will be back here as soon as he can.
“I wish Paul a speedy recovery, it’s truly awful when you hear of anyone who has any battle with cancer.”
Another former Middlesbrough striker, Dean Windass, replaced Merson at short notice to the delight of a sell-out crowd at The Swan.
He looked back on his career which included stints with his home town club Hull and also revealed his battles against depression which led to him attempting to take his own life.
He was joined by television star and Peterlee-based Crissy Rock in Billingham at last night’s event, which included various fundraising elements with all of the money being donated to the Jo and Mya Memorial Trust Fund.
It was set up by inspirational Billingham dad Ian Richardson, who tragically lost his wife and six-year-old daughter when his car was his by another vehicle which was travelling on the wrong side of the road on the A1 in Newcastle, in 2010.
Goffy added: “I was extremely grateful to Dean for him stepping in for Paul at such short notice.
“We couldn’t believe our luck in getting such a high-profile guest at such short notice and he was absolutely fantastic, a true pro.”