In his pomp as an Arsenal player, Paul Merson was accustomed to life at the top of the table and chasing silverware.

But, for the second successive season, the Walsall player-manager finds himself battling relegation with the responsibility for masterminding the club's survival.

Merson, who succeeded Colin Lee four matches before the end of last term's Division One campaign but was unable to keep Walsall up, is not particularly enjoying the experience.

"I've been absolutely bricking it, this is my livelihood," said Merson, who is expected to lose his job if the Saddlers go down. "To do all the training in the week and then have to rely on 90 minutes to determine how the team do is very nerve-wracking.

"The pressure is a nightmare, it is completely different to what I have been used to before.

"When you are at the top of the league and you are going for championships and everything, you are winning week in, week out even though you have pressure. It is nowhere near as bad as it is down here at the bottom."

Given his past addiction to gambling, drugs and alcohol, Merson's honest admission must concern the club's owner Jeff Bonser.

Although the Saddlers are 19th in League One with five matches remaining, they are expected to avoid relegation as their relegation rivals have too much ground to make up.

Indeed, Merson, whose side drew 1-1 with 21st-placed Torquay last weekend, believes victory for Walsall at Swindon Town tomorrow will virtually guarantee their survival. He said: "If we won on Saturday, Torquay would have to win four of their last five games and they have won only eight games all season.

"A win will probably keep us up but we said that last season when we beat Derby County and still went down.

"That's the way it is but it was nice to get off 44 points against Torquay after five defeats and if we stay up I'll be here next season."

With Swindon needing to win tomorrow to keep alive their faint play-off hopes, a Saddlers' victory seems unlikely. But Merson, who hopes to recruit a coach imminently to assist him until the end of the season, says his under-achieving players are playing for their futures.

"They need to roll their sleeves up," he said. "Their careers are on the line as a lot of players' contracts are up. If we go down I don't think many managers will want to take players who have been relegated in two successive seasons either."

Walsall will have Mark Kinsella back on the bench tomorrow but defender Neil Emblen is struggling with a groin injury.

Merson is also refusing to guarantee striker Matty Fryatt a recall despite the teenager's equaliser against Torquay after coming on as substitute.