Marco Silva passion play is driving high-flying Fulham to new levels as risks pay off

Intensity: Marco Silva is no shrinking violet on the Fulham touchline (Action Images via Reuters)
Intensity: Marco Silva is no shrinking violet on the Fulham touchline (Action Images via Reuters)

While Chelsea fans gauge whether their manager is animated enough to inspire his players, Fulham have no such concerns about Marco Silva.

Newly-promoted Fulham are sixth in the Premier League. If they beat Wolves on Friday, they would go level on points with fifth-placed Newcastle.

It has been a meteoric rise, their 45-year-old manager leading them through it all. They won the Championship in his first season and now occupy a European spot in the world’s most unrelenting League less than a year on.

Silva went straight into management after retiring as a player, helping Estoril to promotion to the Portuguese top flight in his first season before securing Europa League qualification the following season. Fulham supporters will read that with interest.

In 2014, a 36-year-old Silva led Estoril to a first home league defeat for Porto since 2008. The ever-exuberant Silva was sent off for two touchline bookings midway through the historic win.

Fulham will recognise their head coach in that story: intense, often disagreeable, but able to guide his teams to places they have seldom been.

After stints at Hull, Watford and Everton, Silva arrived at Fulham. They romped to Championship glory, with Aleksandar Mitrovic breaking the League’s goals record for a single season, hitting a staggering 43 in 44 games. Fulham scored 106 and the Premier League awaited.

Of every club’s summer acquisitions, Fulham’s were surely the shrewdest. In came Bernd Leno from Arsenal; Carlos Vinicius, Andreas Pereira, Issa Diop and Manor Solomon followed; then Joao Palhinha, the defensive midfield revelation from Sporting. Manchester United wanted Palhinha last summer, but Silva used his Portuguese charm to guide him to Fulham. He has been their player of the season.

Fulham have lost just eight of their 24 League games, two being stoppage-time defeats by the Manchester clubs before the World Cup. They push everyone close, something that could not be said about them under any of their managers since Roy Hodgson.

The club is also into the FA Cup fifth round, where they host Leeds on Tuesday. Silva was suspended from Fulham’s 3-2 fourth-round replay win at Sunderland after clocking up four yellow cards for remonstrating with referees.

“Passionate,” he said, when asked how he would describe his managerial style. “I like to be there every session with my players, to coach them in every moment. [We have] to try to control our emotions, and I’m trying to do that, but I’m trying to be as passionate as I can.”

Why have he and Fulham excelled together? “There are no secrets,” he said. “It’s the way we work, and it’s not the first time I’ve worked in this way.”

When Mitrovic missed last weekend’s win at Brighton, Silva did not play striker Vinicius, instead moving Bobby Decordova-Reid there. It did not work, and Vinicius will likely start on Friday.

Yet Silva said he would consider trying it again. His success has afforded him the chance to experiment — and most of his risks pay off.