Premier League

Marco Silva is Exposing the Parochialism of English Football

Marco Silva’s start at Everton has seen renewed hope for Evertonians about the direction in which their football club is heading. Five points out of nine, new signing Richarlison hitting the ground running (prior to his red-card, at least), and a manager who is willing to play the kind of football Everton fans wish to see. Silva’s success, whilst a positive for Everton, should not come as too much of a surprise.

English exceptionalism?

When Silva arrived on English shores, joining struggling Hull City in January 2017, his appointment inspired a less than positive reaction from some pundits. Famously, Soccer Saturday pundits Paul Merson and Phil Thompson were outraged by Hull’s decision to appoint Silva over a British coach such as Gary Rowett. How could a Premier League side have the audacity to overlook a young, English manager who, at this time, had had brief spells with Burton Albion and Birmingham City in Rowett in favour of a foreign one who had only won a Portuguese Cup, a league title in Greece and managed in the Champions League?

The argument made was that Silva would be unaware of what it takes to manage in England, and that the job should be made available to a British manager as they would have a deeper understanding of the English game. And whilst British managers should be given more opportunities — with only four English, one Irish and one Welsh manager in the Premier League at the start of the 2018/19 season — the outrage at Silva’s arrival simply highlights the inward-looking nature of the English game.

An impressive resumé

After getting Estoril promoted from the Portuguese second division at the first time of asking, Silva guided them to fifth-place in his first season in the top league, gaining the club their first Europa League qualification. A fourth-place finish in 2014, including inflicting a first home defeat on Porto since 2008, was enough to ensure that Silva was to take over at Sporting Lisbon.

Silva only stayed at Sporting for a season, dismissed for failing to wear the official club suit, but won the Taça de Portugal, the clubs first silverware since 2008. He moved onto Olympiakos where he won the league title in his first, and ultimately only, season, winning 17 consecutive domestic games.

His appointment at Hull was seen as a gamble. The Tigers were languishing at the bottom of the Premier League, three points adrift from safety. His arrival in Humberside sparked something of a revival, with Hull ultimately picking up 21 points from the final 18 games of the season, giving the side a chance of survival that appeared unlikely at the turn of the year.

Hull were still to be relegated at the end of the season, and Silva resigned in order to try and stay in the Premier League. Watford took a chance on him continuing his excellent career despite only managing in England for a few months, and he became manager of the Hornets in May 2017.

Destined for elite clubs

His stay at Vicarage road would prove volatile, with him only lasting until late January. His excellent start to the season, having Watford in eighth after ten matches led to interest from Everton. The club’s form dropped off dramatically and Watford dismissed Silva as his head had been turned by the interest. His subsequent arrival on Merseyside still courted debate and some fans were unsure and unconvinced of his pedigree.

Silva’s tenure at clubs has been short-lived. A manager not afraid to back his abilities, he believes he is destined for the elite clubs and is willing to jump ship quickly to get there. His CV may not have long stays on the record, but his performances should highlight the clear fact that he is an excellent football manager.

His impact upon Hull was immediate. Within a week of his appointment, Hull had beaten Swansea 2-0 in the FA cup and Bournemouth 3-1 in the league. The side appeared to be better organised, better coached and in a better mental state which allowed them to begin to express themselves more freely. He led his side to a superb 2-0 victory over Liverpool at home, a victory which certainly inspired their progress towards safety. He had Watford at the top end of the league before his departure and early signs suggest that Everton will be a more enticing club to watch this season with Silva at the helm.

More than just mere results, his influence has helped bring the best out of the players at his disposal. Harry Maguire and Andrew Robertson both benefited from Silva’s tutelage, with Maguire being one of England’s World Cup heroes, and Robertson a key contributor to Liverpool’s strong run of form. Neither were players signed by Silva, but both developed quickly after the Portuguese manager’s arrival.

Silva is adding quality to the league

At Watford, he brought Richarlison to the Premier League, a player who started quickly before struggling for form after Silva’s dismissal. The opening two matches of Everton’s season this year have shown the importance of having the right manager in place, as Richarlison scored three times.

Silva has proven himself to be a good quality Premier League manager. His tenure’s might not always last a long time, but that is also true of modern football in general. His arrival in the league has benefited each team he has managed. Much like Mauricio Pochettino, another unknown foreign manager who would not understand the intricacies of the English game, he has greatly improved the quality of the league.

Time should be up in the “old guard”

Although young British managers, the likes of Rowett and Sheffield United’s Danny Wilson, are struggling to break into the Premier League, the problem lies more within the old guard of British managers. Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Brom have all appointed Alan Pardew within the last eight years. Sam Allardyce has been employed by Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Everton to varying degrees of success.

The narrative continues with plenty of British mangers. Tony Pulis: Stoke twice, West Brom, Crystal Palace; Roy Hodgson: Fulham, West Brom, Crystal Palace; Mark Hughes: Blackburn, Fulham, QPR, Stoke, Southampton.

There is an apparent managerial merry-go-round, with the same older, experienced British managers being appointed by struggling teams in order to achieve survival, being sacked due to lack of definitive improvements a season or two later, and then being replaced by another on the list. This is the main obstacle in the way of British managers.

Foreign managers aren’t blocking the new generation

The Rowett’s and Wilson’s of the game are being blocked in their career progression, but it is not by young, talented managers of differing nationalities. The money to be made by staying in the Premier League is too much for clubs to be willing to gamble on younger managers, and so the same names often find themselves employed.

Silva’s experiences in England have been positive and, albeit in brief stints, he has improved all three clubs he has been at. The lack of respect for him, even still, is an unfortunate side effect of the inward-looking nature that has always consumed English football. Manchester City losing to Monaco in the Champions League in 2016/17 was seen as a shock, but Monaco were one of the best teams in Europe that season, a fact that would be known by fans if they watched football outside the Premier League.

A cup success in Portugal and a league title in Greece is pretty good experience by most measures, especially for teams at the bottom end of the Premier League. Although it never kept Hull in the division, perhaps if more struggling clubs were willing to gamble on managers who have proven themselves abroad, they would stand a better chance of survival.

Editorial credit: Kostas Koutsaftikis / Shutterstock.com

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