When Marco Silva was named Hull City manager in January, the consensus was that the Portuguese had been extremely lucky to be given a chance to manage in the Premier League. Three months later, Hull will be fortunate to hang on to him.
Hull had made so many mistakes since promotion from the Championship, that glorious day in May last year when Steve Bruce, the most successful manager in the club’s history, returned them to the top flight, that the appointment of Silva was dismissed as another one.
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According to Sky Sports pundits Paul Merson and Phil Thompson, Silva’s arrival was an insult to all the hard-working British managers who had done their time in the lower leagues.
He had no understanding of English football or Hull as a city or a football club. It was a disappointment that was mocked and derided in equal measure and the Allam family, who had decided to sack Mike Phelan to bring the 39-year-old to England, had made another terrible blunder. At best, Silva’s arrival provoked a shrug of ambivalence. At worst, it generated anger and spite.
There was an element of ignorance in the reaction; a mixture of Little Englander xenophobia combined with a lack of awareness of events in the relatively minor leagues of Portugal and Greece where Silva made his name with Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos.
In some respects, they were right, but the only mistake Hull made was in only given Silva a six-month contract, because the 39 year-old has become one of the most coveted coaches in Europe, making a spectacular impression at the bottom of the Premier League.
With West Ham potentially searching for a new manager in the summer, Silva has plenty of admirers who could tempt him not to sign an extension in Yorkshire.
Certainly, there will be plenty of focus on him between now and May. Hull had looked doomed to relegation ever since Bruce left. The lack of investment in the squad in the summer compounded by the sale of two of their best players in January, midfielder Jake Livermore to West Brom and winger Robert Snodgrass to West Ham.
The appointment of Silva coincided with their departures. He looked like a patsy, a fall guy, grateful for the job, even if he did not have the tools needed to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Hull were bottom of the table when Silva took charge, but Wednesday night’s 4-2 win over Middlesbrough, the team directly below them in the table, lifted them out of the bottom three.
The Tigers have not lost a home game under Silva – he has not lost a home game in 40 attempts as a manager at Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos – and out-classed Boro. Forced to make loan signings in January rather than permanent deals, Silva is getting far more out of players like Everton flop Oumar Niasse and Liverpool outcast Lazar Markovic than their parent clubs ever managed. He is plotting an escape route with rogues and misfits.
As for Harry Maguire and Andrew Robertson, the two young defenders who have blossomed this year, they are attracting interest from a host of rival clubs. Maguire, signed by Bruce from Sheffield United, was lucky to get a game under Phelan. He was captain on Wednesday night.
We have been surprised by Silva. There are those who will claim they always knew he would succeed, but in truth, nobody saw this happening.
Hull were not supposed to stay up, but they have an excellent chance to do so now. The credit for that has to go to the young man in the dugout.
There are comparisons to be made with another young foreign manager who came to this country, surfing a wave of outrage, landing on these shores, greeted by critics with sharpened knives.
When Mauricio Pochettino replaced the popular Nigel Adkins at Southampton in 2014, English football reacted in a similar way, but rapidly backtracked, the insults and barbs traded for praise and superlatives. There were pats on the back rather than knife wounds.
Southampton pulled off a masterstroke in attracting the former Espanyol boss, but could not hold on to the Argentinian once English football realised its ignorance.
Tottenham pounced and are enjoying their most successful period in the Premier League era. Pochettino, meanwhile, has been linked with the Barcelona job and will surely be on Real Madrid’s radar.
He has not won a trophy yet at Spurs, but has got them closer to winning the league than anyone has managed for 30 years.
Silva is not at that level yet, but he seems to be on the same career trajectory. Whatever happens to Hull at the end of the season, their young manager looks destined for bigger and better things.