'Dangerous game' - Paul Merson reacts to rumours linking Rafa Benitez with Newcastle United reunion
Paul Merson has suggested that Newcastle United could be playing a “dangerous game" if there is any substance to recent rumours linking them with a sensational reunion with former boss Rafa Benitez.
According to claims from The Times journalist Duncan Castles, Toon owner Mike Ashley has made an approach to the Spaniard as he looks for a manager who could steer the Magpies clear of their current relegation battle between now and the end of the season.
It is understood, however, that Ashley still has faith in current boss Steve Bruce, and contrary to Castles’ report, has no intention of removing the 60-year-old anytime soon – especially in favour of figure who left the club on such rocky terms 18 months ago.
But Merson is concerned that speculation surrounding Bruce’s tenure on Tyneside could have a detrimental effect as he looks to drag his side clear of the drop zone.
Speaking on Sky Sports News’ Soccer Saturday, the former Arsenal man said: “This is a dangerous game, this is.
"They’re in a relegation battle and the last thing you need is the manager hearing this.
"It’s social media, but who’s making it up? Something’s happened along the way. I don’t know if it’s Rafa’s people put it out there or what, or it’s a Fulham fan.
"At the moment, I’d be looking at this thinking, ‘This needs to get sorted. We need to stay solid for the next four or five games’.
"It could be sorted by then, but they need to be solid and you do not need to be listening to all this stuff. I mean, this is not good.
"They are in a major relegation battle without Callum Wilson being fit.
"I think it all comes down to Fulham tonight, I really do. I think if Fulham win, I think Newcastle are in serious, serious trouble.”
Newcastle are currently 17th in the Premier League table, with a six-point advantage over Fulham beneath them.
That lead could be halved, however, if Scott Parker’s men beat bottom side Sheffield United on Saturday night.
The Magpies will have their chance to respond to the Cottagers’ result when they face Manchester United on Sunday.