Hull City’s new head coach Marco Silva was ready for the question.
“Jose Mourinho famously described himself as the ‘Special One’ at his first press conference in England,” began the inquisitor. “How would you describe yourself?”
Silva initially chuckled. Being Portuguese, he has grown used to comparisons with one of football’s most enigmatic characters. Silva will also face the Manchester United manager next Tuesday in a League Cup semi-final first-leg tie at Old Trafford .
“I would describe myself as Marco Silva,” he eventually replied with a smile. “You know my name and my name is Marco Silva.”
The reporter, it was clear, would not be getting the sound-bite he wanted. Nor would the written press be handed any easy headlines.
Silva, while being perfectly amiable and willing to shake hands with anyone who profferred theirs in his direction, was in business mode.
He has come to England to do a job and that job is keeping Hull in the Premier League.
All the peripheral stuff – and in particular the hyperbole that often surrounds the minutiae of life in the Premier League – could wait.
That point was forced home later in Silva’s unveiling press conference when another enquiry came about Mourinho.
“For me and for all the coaches, Mourinho is Mourinho,” replied the 39-year-old, after making it clear he considered the Red Devils manager a good friend. “I need to do my career, I need to win my challenges in my career and build step by step.
“I don’t like the comparison. For me it is not bad, but I don’t like it.”
Carlos Carvalhal, on meeting the Yorkshire media for the first time as Sheffield Wednesday head coach 18 months ago, adopted a very similar stance.
Mourinho was someone the Owls chief respects, but the Portuguese was determined to be his own man and not a clone.
Silva, of course, has a much more daunting challenge on his hands than the one Carvalhal inherited in the summer of 2015.
Hull are in a mess. One win in 18 games has dumped the Tigers to the foot of the table, while off the field relations are so strained between supporters and the owners that today’s FA Cup third-round clash with Swansea City is the subject of a boycott.
In terms of welcomes, a stadium that could be only 0ne-fifth full today is far from ideal.
To that end, Hull City Supporters Trust have written an open letter to Silva to explain the reasons behind the planned stayaway to make clear it has nothing to do with his appointment.
Even if it was, however, Silva seems the sort of individual able to take most things in his stride. Any questions he did not fancy answering yesterday, for instance, were swept away with the promise, ‘Let’s talk about that later’. An invitation to do so “over a coffee” was even extended at one point.
Silva clearly did not want to get bogged down on matters other than football and why he has taken on the task of keeping Hull in the Premier League.
This much was underlined by a reticence to discuss his departure from Sporting Lisbon in 2015, just a few days after ending the club’s six-year wait for a trophy with the Portuguese Cup.
His failure to wear a club suit was given by president Bruno de Carvalho as a laughable justification for the sacking, but Silva’s only comment yesterday was: “It is not the moment to joke. Maybe in the future we can joke about that.”
Such a stance was a world away from Steve Bruce, who was a natural when it came to regaling the media with entertaining stories, but it did ensure that Silva’s bow in front of the cameras in England was a polished affair.
His English was excellent, something Silva said is a consequence of spending last year in charge of Olympiacos and being unable to converse with the players in such a difficult language as Greek. He also insisted the inclement English weather was okay. “It is a little cold, but no problem.”
When Silva’s face did light up was when asked about, first, the opportunity to coach in the Premier League and then whether taking on a club in as much trouble as Hull risked damaging his reputation.
“Working in the Premier League is to me a step,” he said. “When I worked at Olympiacos – the biggest club in Greece – you are already thinking of the next step, and for me the Premier League is the biggest. The owners have given me the chance. This is a step I wanted for my career.”
As for the possible consequences for his burgeoning reputation as a coach, Silva added: “Always, the coach’s life is a risk. Always there are small problems, even when you are fighting for titles. When you are fighting for the Europa League, you have problems.
“It is better when things are more calm, when you don’t have problems such as injuries. But we do have these problems, and we need to solve these problems to change the situation.
“I believe in the competence of my staff. I also believe in our players. I believe, not because I am crazy, but because I believe in our competence, our roster, our players. I believe this (keeping Hull up) is possible.
“Of course, coming to Hull is a risk. But always in a coach’s life, you have risks. For me, this is not important because I believe it is possible to change this situation.”
Today Silva’s selection options will be limited by injuries to key men, plus the absence of Dieumerci Mbokani and Ahmed Elmohamady on Africa Cup of Nations duty. But those who do attend will be given an insight into what makes the Portuguese tick and how he envisages turning around what already looks a desperate situation.
“I would say to people, ‘Believe’,” he added. “We do not have much time, but my ambition is to make this miracle happen. For the next five months, all we can think about is Hull. If I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t be here.”