Upon inheriting the managerial reigns at Hull City, Marco Silva was presented with a task many considered a far forgone prospect.
Hull were firmly occupying the bottom of the Premier League table, Mike Phelan had fought with minimal resources and injuries galore, though the ex-Manchester United assistant manager was unable to appease the Hull City hierarchy, and on January 5th 2017, Phelan’s successor was appointed: the unknown quantity of Marco Silva. His task? Premier League survival.
“I’m not having it! You can give me stick on that. There’s enough British managers out there, come on…off the top of my head, why not Thierry Henry? He’s done his badges, he’s a legend in the game, he’s ripped up the Premier League. If he walked into Hull City he’d give them a lift.” The words of wisdom from Mr Paul Merson, an esteemed Gillette Soccer Saturday pundit who was simply unable to see any logic or pragmatism present in the decision to appoint Silva at the KCOM. “He’s won the league at Olympiakos? I could’ve won the league at Olympiakos!” further exclaimed Merson, a damning criticism of the Portuguese manager who was yet to even manage his first Premier League game following his appointment.
Silva was unquestionably an unauthentic appointment for Hull, though no compensation to be paid and a winning record (79.17%) at Olympiakos made for pleasant reading for the Hull hierarchy. Silva has arrived at Hull City and turned a perceived relegation certainty into a team who are battling with Swansea for the final relegation spot. It would appear Sunderland and Middlesborough have been left by the way-side, and whilst Crystal Palace and Bournemouth remain relegation contenders, one would expect Swansea or Hull to be the final occupant of the three relegation spots for 2016-17’s Premier League season.
Saturday 22nd April saw Hull City defeat Watford 2-0 at the KCOM, a huge 3 points in Hull’s quest for survival and yet another home victory for Marco Silva. Hull now sit on 33 points, with 40 widely considered at the required mandate for Premier League survival. Hull’ remaining fixtures see visits from Spurs and Sunderland to the KCOM, whilst testing away trips to St Mary’s and Selhurst Park are due over the next month of fixtures. The KCOM fixtures versus Spurs and Sunderland will be pivotal with regard to Hull’s likelihood of maintaining their status as a Premier League team, as Marco Silva has proceeded to create a fortress-like, siege mentality when Hull are playing on Humberside. 9 unbeaten, 8 consecutive victories in both the League Cup and the Premier League, away goals meaning Hull’s 2-1 victory against Manchester United was in vain. Though this is the type of home form that has lead to Hull City’s vast revival, and certainly upon arriving at the KCOM had Marco Silva been presented with the hypothetical chance to have 33 points and 4 fixtures to play, he’d be delighted to say the least.
Alongside Middlesborough, Swansea and Crystal Palace, Hull were a part of the bottom 5 clubs that switched their manager at a point within the season: Sunderland the only team to have stuck by their manager; David Moyes, though they remain firmly at the foot of the Premier League table. Steve Bruce’s untimely departure for Hull following the promotion to the Premier League left a conundrum of complication, Phelan was aware of the systems in place at Hull and made sense for a suitable appointment. Despite the rapid decline in league positioning of Hull under Phelan, he was the recipient of August’s ‘Manager of the Month’ award, early signs had suggesting Phelan’s appointment was a masterstroke. Though in spite of this, injuries began to take their toll and in tandem Hull’s league position did too: by the time of Phelan’s departure, they were rooted in 20th position. Silva has galvanised not only Hull’s playing staff, but the club too. They look set to battle Swansea City for survival and these final 4 fixtures are some of the biggest in both Wales and Humberside for many years: Premier League survival has never meant more.
The bounce effect of Marco Silva has been beyond evident at Hull, and Assem Allam deserves huge credit for an appointment that did not necessarily light up the eyes of Hulls fanbase, though has been a managerial masterstroke that has provided Hull with a firm footing to fight for survival. Regardless, Silva has made only positive strides in enhancing his reputation, and be it survival, relegation or pastures new, despite Paul Merson’s claims of superiority lying with British managers and even Thierry Henry, in my eyes, this is a man on course for achievement and accolades of the highest order within the English game and beyond.