Thanks to Oscar Chamberlain for his article on the next manager to sit in the dugout opposite Danny and Nicky; Everton’s Marco Silva.
Do you remember where you were at 3pm on the 7th of January 2017? I suspect, like me, many of you were settling into your seats at Portman Road about to experience a thrilling cup tie and a truly brilliant Lincoln City performance. Not quite the beginning of the Cowley revolution, but a pretty important day in the recent history of the club and probably the start of our new favourite pastime – arguing about ticket allocation.
While all that was going on, a little closer to Sincil Bank, Hull City were taking on Swansea in the same competition. A crowd of 6,600 people rattled around inside the KCOM, or whatever it was called then, to see Marco Silva take charge of a game in England for the very first time. The 39-year-old had been out of work for 6 months after guiding Olimpiacos to the Greek title but was now facing the almost impossible task of keeping Hull City in the Premier League.
He got a fairly typical ‘foreign manager’ welcome from a number of pundits who didn’t bother doing any research before dismissing him as someone who couldn’t possibly understand top flight football in England.
“I could win the league with Olimpiacos” claimed Paul Merson (I can just imagine all the Walsall fans nodding in agreement) “They’ve won it 107 times and it’s only been going 106 years. What’s he know about the Premier League?”
He wasn’t alone in responding to the appointment in this manner, something which I never fully understood. Silva had just spent the previous two seasons with Sporting Lisbon and Olimpiacos, winning trophies with both, so I thought Hull, who were in disarray on and off the pitch, had done pretty well to convince him to join them.
Almost two years on, Silva is halfway through his first campaign as Everton manager. It’s his third Premier League job and I’m sure there are those who feel he is a little bit lucky to be given the opportunity to manage such a big club. He wasn’t able to save Hull City from relegation and at Watford, despite a flying start, he was sacked after just 6 months. On the surface, that looks like a couple of failures but if you dig a little deeper, it’s not hard to see why Everton were so keen to bring him in.
I first became aware of Marco Silva during the 2012-13 season. I was commentating on a lot of Portuguese football at the time and Silva’s Estoril side were back in the top flight for the first time in seven years. He had finished his playing career with the club in 2011 and took over as manager a few months later, leading them to promotion at the first attempt.
I was covering between 20 and 30 matches a month in those days from various leagues around the world so I don’t remember too many specific details about Estoril’s campaign other than a tremendous 3-1 home win over a Sporting Lisbon side containing the likes of current Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Marcos Rojo and a very young Eric Dier.
It was an excellent performance and a big result which helped them finish 5th that season and qualify for the Europa League for the first time in their history and he repeated the feat in the following campaign this time with a 4th place finish.
Finishing 4th and 5th in the Portuguese top flight may not sound particularly impressive, but in the 2012-13 season, their average home attendance was under 2,000. Estoril are a very small club and have since returned to the second division.
It was impossible to ignore Silva’s three excellent seasons with Estoril and it was no surprise that he was offered the Sporting Lisbon job after Leonardo Jardim left to take over at Monaco.
Sporting are one of the traditional big three in Portugal. Multiple title-winners with a 50,000 capacity stadium and plenty of European experience but also a club unable to compete financially with Benfica and Porto. They had gone six seasons without a trophy when Marco Silva arrived but he was able to deliver, winning the Portuguese Cup in dramatic fashion.
That game is up there with some of the best I’ve commentated on. It was played at the Estadio Nacional in Oeiras and Sporting, who were up against Braga, had the worst possible start when they conceded a penalty and had Cedric Soares sent off with less than 15 minutes on the clock. Eder converted the spot-kick and less than 10 mins later Rafa Silva added a second to make it 2-0.
Sporting pulled a goal back through Islam Slimani with 6 minutes to go before substitute Fredy Montero equalised in the 3rd minute of stoppage time. Extra time and penalties followed with Marco Silva’s side winning 3-1 to secure their first major trophy since 2008.
The drama didn’t end there though because four days later he was sacked by the club. One of the reasons given for his dismissal was the failure to wear an official club suit during a cup match against FC Vizela but it is thought the main reason was Silva’s occasional public criticism of the club during press conferences.
He moved to Olimpiacos, winning 28 of his 30 league matches and finishing 30 points clear of second place Panathinaikos in the Greek Superleague. He also guided them to a famous win over Arsenal at the Emirates in the Champions League and by the end of the season, Porto were trying to tempt him back to his homeland.
Olimpiacos blocked the move and a month or so later, despite having a year or so left on his contract, Marco Silva resigned.