There is not usually a lengthy queue to recruit managers whose CV has been stained by recent relegation.
Demotion tends to result in an inevitable parting of the ways and a period of convalescence. The effect is similar to that experienced by a prized boxer who loses his proud unbeaten record. The halo slips. So, it says a lot about the firefighting job Marco Silva did at Hull that his reputation has actually been enhanced despite the fact the Tigers will be playing their football in the Championship next season. He was a sought-after man.
The fact he had offers on the table from Watford, Crystal Palace and Porto speaks volumes for the transformative and troubleshooting effect he had during just six months in the Premier League (it feels like he’s been here longer, doesn’t it?).
Hull were dead and buried when he arrived and not given a prayer, seemingly doomed following a run of one win in 13 matches.
Propping up the table, they had 13 points after 20 games. Once Silva got hold of them they racked up 21 points from the next 16 until the wheels came off against Crystal Palace and Tottenham in the last two. Hull must have wished he was installed at the start of the season.
“I studied quickly, fast, and I could identify the problems the team had,” Silva said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in April.
He changed the training and aspects of the nutrition. Famously, he took apple crumble, the house favourite, off the menu at the training ground. He set about winning hearts and minds.
“The first approach was to pass on the message: everything is difficult but it is also possible,” Silva added.
“It’s clear. We were the team who were last in the table. But it’s possible. And I believe – because if I did not believe then I would not be here. And I am not crazy. The other thing I told them was: ‘I want your minds to be open because we will change many things’. And we have – nutrition, training – and the final thing I asked is the attitude every day. And the passion. The passion. Because I have one way: bring your real game to every training session. In every dimension: technical, tactical, physical, psychological. This is what I want and at the same level as in a match.”
He impressed with his diligence on the training field. “He was physically grabbing players, saying, 'I want you here and I want you there,” said defender Curtis Davies. “It's set-pieces and team shape every day.”
Silva built morale despite the potentially divisive move of reportedly scrapping all casual days off. Only rest days were allowed. He also tweaked the matchday arrangements, bringing them more into line with what most others do.
Players were told to report to the stadium on the morning of the game before heading off to a hotel for their pre-match meal. They then returned on the team coach to simulate arriving for an away game. He felt it fostered a greater team spirit and focused minds.
The way he integrated seven new signings, most of whom who arrived on loan, was particularly impressive. He built a competitive team mid-season and on the hoof, which is no mean feat. The Portuguese alchemist shored up a leaky backline by stationing five men in midfield and three clean sheets in eight games followed, as did a win against Liverpool and a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
He also set about the survival bid with a sense of style. Three of the wins came in stirring fashion after they found themselves behind. Watford have only managed that twice in two seasons. “I have one idea: if you play better then you have a better chance to win,” Silva says. “So my teams are dominant and I want them to be like that.”
This builds on a theme that started to develop when he was in charge of Olympiakos. “My aim is to create an attacking team with pace, who will always work hard and force mistakes,” Silva said before claiming the scalp of Arsenal, 3-2, in the Champions League at the Emirates in 2015.
That front-foot approach will be music to the ears of Watford fans who should take Silva to their hearts in the same way fans of Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos did. His coaching career, you see, started long before he was thrust into the bright spotlight of the Premier League. He cut his teeth in Portugal and Greece, slowly and stealthily carving out quite the reputation. He’s young in coaching terms – he’s only three years older than Heurelho Gomes – but he coaches like an old head.
“Marco is a young coach who has impressed us with his philosophy and football style,” said Hull owner Assem Allam at the time of his appointment. “He has a great track record.”
Doesn’t he just, so much so that you wonder why no-one took a punt on him before Hull did.
His stock has risen steadily since he led unheralded Estoril from the second tier of Portuguese football to fifth and then fourth place in the top division and into Europe. Sounds almost Graham Taylor esque, doesn’t it? He also ended Porto's six-year unbeaten home record.
He transferred that success to Sporting Lisbon where he broke their seven-year trophy drought by winning the Portuguese Cup. Much like his countryman and mentor Jose Mourinho, his methods are clearly transferrable as he then led Olympiakos to a 43rd Greek title, romping to success by a whopping 30 points on the back of 28 wins out of 30 games.
At that stage he was leaving clubs in a much better place than he found them. Fans of Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos never saw their team lose at home under Silva.
"His pedigree and promise speaks for itself with his achievements in top divisions elsewhere across Europe,” said Watford chairman Scott Duxbury.
“We are delighted to have secured his services and to be welcoming a Head Coach of his profile and potential.”
You suspect no-one will be happier than Duxbury and Gino Pozzo if they end up extending his two-year deal. It means things will have gone swimmingly.
Silva is unlikely to leave any stoned unturned when he starts his fifth coaching assignment. His trusted backroom team of Assistant Head Coach Joao Pedro Sousa, First-Team Coach Goncalo Pedro and Goalkeeping Coach Hugo Oliveira spent the entire week before they joined Hull analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the Tigers.
Imagine the job they can do at Vicarage Road now they’ve now got the whole summer to prepare. Roll on 2017/18.
Source: Watford FC