MARCO SILVA’S remarkable revival of Hull City is deservedly earning the Portuguese plenty of plaudits and acclaim.
The 39-year-old has brought hope where there previously was none and, in masterminding the Tigers’ escape from the relegation zone after 165 days of captivity in midweek, is well on the way to achieving the “miracle” he admitted in January was needed to keep the club up.
Regardless of how the survival scrap ends, Silva’s managerial reputation in this country has been made and those pundits such as Paul Merson, who scoffed at his appointment have already been made to look very foolish.
“The manager has been like a breath of fresh air around the place,” said Sam Clucas to The Yorkshire Post when asked about the impact made by the Lisbon-born former full-back.
“He has brought a European feel to both the club and how we play. The team is full of confidence and if we stay up then it will all be down to him.”
Around 1,500 or so miles away from Hull on the west coast of Portugal, Silva’s rescue act has come as no surprise.
Eight years ago and with an unremarkable playing career dwindling down, Silva was captain of Estoril. Struggling near the foot of the Portuguese second division, the club from the former fishing village of Cascais was heading for the rocks that can be found along the more rugged parts of a coast that sits to the west of Lisbon.
Wages were not being paid and the players were looking for an escape route. Silva, though, talked his team-mates round, explaining how new Brazilian owners were on the way but that any sale was dependent on Estoril continuing to function.
A few were sceptical but listened to the club’s persuasive captain, who had made a point of speaking at length to the prospective buyers when their interest first became known.
The squad stayed together, the takeover was completed and the locals still talk fondly of Silva’s role in both keeping Estoril going and then, after being appointed head coach in 2011, leading the unfashionable club to both promotion and a highest-ever finish.
On the training ground, he is meticulous. He is football mad, he watches games all the time and knows exactly what every opposition player does.Hull City’s Sam Clucas, on manager Marco Silva
Silva’s equally impressive work in Hull has not gone unnoticed by other chairmen and he is certain to be in demand come the summer.
The Tigers head coach revealed yesterday no talks had taken place over a possible extension to the five-month deal he signed in January. “We have only one focus,” he said, “To remain in Premier League.”
City’s players, like the supporters and no doubt the club hierarchy, certainly hope he will remain.
“This team has character and belief, and Mr Silva has given us that,” said Eldin Jakupovic, installed as City’s first-choice goalkeeper in one of the Portuguese’s first acts on succeeding Mike Phelan in early January.
“He talks to us, makes us feel good. You need a good speaker as manager and he is a good speaker. A hard worker, too.
“The manager is very different to the previous one. He gives us the belief that makes us comfortable to play football.
“I knew him from Greece, he was the gaffer at Olympiacos. I played in Greece, too. Not at the same time but I follow football there. I didn’t know how he played football or what he was like as a man. But he won the league so I thought he must be a good coach.
“When he came, we were at the bottom. Now, we are out of the relegation zone for the first time in a long, long time. He has given us that belief.”
Silva’s first coaching role with Estoril came after a short spell as the club’s sporting director. At 34, the appointment was not without risk but, as has happened at Hull, the players quickly took to his methods and embraced a high-pressing game.
Promotion followed at the end of that first season but that was merely the prelude to history being made as the minnows with a 5,000 capacity stadium went on to finish fifth and then fourth in the top flight.
A first appearance in the Europa League underlined the tremendous transformation wrought by Silva, who left Estoril in 2014 for a season apiece at, first, Sporting Lisbon and then Olympiacos. A Portuguese Cup triumph and the Greek title further enhanced his growing reputation.
Then came the switch to the Premier League that had pundits such as Merson and Phil Thompson memorably questioning City’s decision to raid the foreign market with comments such as, ‘Why is this geezer any different to Gary Rowett?’ and ‘What does he know about Hull?’
Thankfully, the Tigers players were more receptive to the new man’s methods, captain Michael Dawson not batting an eyelid when forcibly dragged into position by the Portuguese during the new coach’s first outing on the training pitch.
Longer sessions were soon introduced as days off, at least during those first few weeks, became a thing of the past at a club whose travails the previous summer had led to the season kicking off with just 11 fit senior outfield players.
“The manager has done a great job,” added Clucas about Silva, whose 11 league games at the helm have yielded 17 points. “He has been brilliant for all of us.
“On the training ground, he is meticulous. He is football mad, he watches games all the time and knows exactly what every opposition player does.
“All their set-pieces, he knows. He then takes us through everything before games. He also knows exactly how he wants us to play, but he also gives us a bit of freedom, too. He wants us to go out there and enjoy it. His thinking is, ‘If you love your football, you will do well’.
“The manager has also shown he can change things. West Ham was an example of that. He changed the shape at half-time and afterwards we were calling him the ‘master tactician’. Our job now is to get out of trouble.”