Manager in the media: Marco Silva, like a duck staring at a clock…

Date published: Friday 15th March 2019 12:35

This week, Johnny’s positive look at our managers and how they perform on telly and radio takes a look at a man of whom it was once asked, with exasperated jingoistic indignation, “what’s he know about the Premier League? What’s he know?” That’ll be Marco Silva, then.


Who are ya?
Marco Alexandre Saraiva da Silva is 41 years old, was born in Lisbon and spent his playing career almost exclusively in the lower leagues. Played as a right back, ending his career at Estoril. Went into management aged 34 and was immediately really successful getting Estoril promoted into the top flight as champions and won Manager of the Year. From there it was to Sporting. Took them to third and won the Taça de Portugal. Well done. Marco. Four days later was handed his cards for for not wearing their official suit in a cup match against F.C. Vizela! If ever there was a dismissal which screamed of being about something entirely different to the reason proffered, it is surely this.

He then left for Greece and Olympiacos where he broke all sorts of records such as notching up 11 consecutive league wins from the first match day and totalled 17 eventually. Won the league but quit at the end of the season. But it was these three trophy-winning seasons that set tongues wagging about this bright young manager from across the water.

Landed in Hull next, which must’ve been a bit of a shock after Greece. In something of an emerging pattern, he started well winning his first four home games but ended only winning 8 out of 22. Legged it to Watford where it was basically Hull City all over again. There was sniffage from Everton and it was all downhill from there. Won 8 out of 26 this time.

Got to the Toffees, started well, then…well, you know how it goes with Marco. Keeps threatening to do really well, but hasn’t really managed it yet, to the chagrin of those of us who wanted him to stick it to those critics who didn’t like him getting a job in England due to being foreign and therefore obviously not knowing anything about the mysterious, exotic thing called the Premier League.

When the boys set about Marco on his arrival at Hull, it was, as ever, from a point of total ignorance and maximum hive mind. That’s what the boys get paid the big money for. But because they wear very thick blinkers they surely didn’t expect to be so eviscerated in the media and by the public to such a degree. The opprobrium they faced was as much for feeling enabled to talk such rot without any self-consciousness at all, as though this was all good common sense that only a fool could disagree with. It all smacked of golf club bar grandstanding.

The whole affair became emblematic of a specific frame of mind.

Regardless of his nationality, so far Marco has turned out to have been a bit of a curate’s egg of a manager.

Pitchside, he favours the suit with open-necked shirt rather than sportswear and likes to go for the thin grey V-neck jumper under the suit jacket in winter. Has worn one of those expensive-looking, possibly cashmere, shorty coats that only just keep one’s derriere warm which forever will be the AVB dress code in my mind. Neat, dark hair, often with those pointy burners rock stars used to favour. Has a strong jaw with dark, somewhat brooding eyes which just occasionally wander together. All in all he’s quite dashing and attractive. He puts me in mind of someone else – a rock star or actor possibly but can’t bring who it is to mind. Never seems dishevelled or scruffy. Has the densely-follicled head of a man destined to never be bald.


Cunning linguist?
Speaks fluent English with that classic Portuguese or Spanish soft flow together of words. Always pronounces ‘it’s’ as ‘iz’ in what my pal Jeff would call giving it the full ‘iz not rat, iz hamster’ Manuel.

Tries to give as few hostages to fortune, which you can understand totally when it comes to our tabloid press. On the few occasions he flashes a smile, it improves his aspect immeasurably.

Certainly capable of losing his rag, though it must be said that he appears to favour the pout and sulk as his primary means of expressing displeasure.

Just been had up on an ‘improper conduct’ charge after complaining about the officials after the Newcastle game last week. That term always makes it sound like you’ve been caught violating an Alsatian, or involved the removal of underwear in public, but all he really did was have a bit of a moan up, which really isn’t improper at all.

In his more tetchy moments he develops a slightly needed, pleading-eyebrows sort of expression but mostly, he favours the deadpan as a response.


Media hit or miss?
Seems too self-contained to be a big media hit. Doesn’t give enough to the camera lens or radio microphone to gain him much capital. Whilst he’s rather rakish and good-looking, there is something a little cold about him. To be a big hit these days you need to exude a bit of charm and laughter. You need to flatter the broadcast medium a little. To get some love back, you need to give some out. It is also good for your job prospects. The twinkly-eyed charmer tends to get longer in a job and tends to get a new job all the more quickly. There is box office in being attractive.

While he’s not there to be some sort of court jester, the modern day manager is getting the big money to be part of the entertainment too and not be some sort of glorified leisure centre administrator. So if you don’t put enough effort in to throw some fish to the seagulls from your own personal trawler, then you’re more easily ignored, your achievements will be less celebrated and your failures more focused upon. I sometimes wonder if the furore over his arrival at Hull City has inhibited him somewhat ever since, or at least made him overly self-conscious.


Proper Football Man rating: Garlic bread
The boys still have no really idea what the fuss over Marco was all about, but they are just about compos mentis enough to realise they done a thing what people think is a top top wrong. And they know that if they push this too much and too often, they might stop picking up huge money for doing something which is little more than shouting the first thing that comes into your head at strangers.

So they have now probably had some diversity training about how not to metaphorically spit in the face of people who are not from this country and how not to dismiss anything or anyone they’ve not previously heard of as rubbish simply by virtue of the very fact they’ve not heard of it.

‘I like foreigners, Jeff. I do. They gave us foreign food. Without them we’d not have garlic bread and literally everyone loves garlic bread. It’s garlic AND bread. Have you had it? It’s brilliant. They serve it in all the English pubs in Spain, that’s how good it is.’

‘I never said them things anyway and even if I did, he’s a geezer from Portugal so he can’t understand English, can he? What do they speak over there? Brazilishness innit? See, I don’t speak languages so nothing I say makes any sense and that’s why I said what I said and I stand by it even though I don’t know what it was, officer. Blow into this bag? Why are your chips hot? Ha Ha Ha… here’s a couple of season tickets and I’ll be on my way. Yeah I’ve had three bottles of wine from Alice Lorraine but wine doesn’t count as proper alcohol.

‘And anyway, he doesn’t know the Premier League does he? I mean he can’t. He’s not from ‘round here. That’s not racist, it’s just true. And Portugallers are not even a race so you can say what you want about them. I don’t know anything about Portuguese football because I’m foreign, well I’m not foreign but foreigners would think I was foreign even though I’m not and they are and that’s why I don’t understand anything. See? My brain is hurting. Can I have my money now? So if anyone has a pop at me for not knowing anything about Portugal then that’s fair enough because I no speak da lingo, do I? It’s all foreign to me, like books, women and grammar. I’ve never even met your grandma.’

As most weeks in the media proves, the PFM obsession with foreign managers in particular is something they just can’t let go. In fact, they seem to see the whole of football through this peculiar lens whereby British is both best and yet put upon. Brave but bullied. Everything British is judged against a wholly different standard to that which they apply to people from elsewhere. It remains very, very odd and the gulf between those who hold these truths to be self-evident and the rest of us, has never been wider. It’s just a shame that some blameless fella like Marco had to get both barrels of bitterness full in the face on arrival. For a well-travelled and successful man, it must seem very strange indeed.


What the people say
It seems to me that Marco carries the goodwill of most but the feeling that he’s overrating himself a little does seem prevalent. It’s surely nothing that a few wins, a seventh place finish wouldn’t cure, at least for now. But then, Everton is at the front of Premier League existential crisis where it’s hard to know what they’re ever going to achieve beyond seventh and at the end of the season, finishing seventh is not really significantly different in delivering joy than finishing 17th and feels little greater as an achievement. And anyway, once you’ve finished seventh once, as Burnley know, the only way is down. When there is a ceiling to what 14 clubs can realistically achieve, it brings into question the whole point of the league itself as a competition and it becomes less a sport and closer to mere exhibition. So in this way, whatever Silva does in the league, it won’t look like extraordinary success.

He wears one hell of a coat, on his day

For a reputed manager of potential he has been woefully unimpressive in any number of categories. Game management, set pieces, tactical adjustments… shows very little sign he can cut it at his level. His career is a series of purple patches.

He always seems to be in mid-sulk on the touchline. Doesn’t march up and down, shouting, instead he buries his chin under his duffel-coat and looks at his feet as if to say: “S’not my fault we’re playing crap, you shouldn’t have given me the job in the first place. Nuhhh.”

Not nearly as smooth as he thinks he is.

Tactically naive in the extreme. The fact his three teams have the worst defensive record from set-pieces is almost impressive.

Just seems overrated to me. When watching the game on the sidelines he appears a bit confused, like a duck looking at a clock.

Always has an aura of being too good for the job he’s in. Impressive style, not sure about his substance. Seems a breath of fresh air but very similar traits to other trendy young coaches – wears a scarf and a thin jumper that’s too small for him.

There seems to be a talent but results need to replicate that. He’s had some horrendous decisions go against him this year but the jury is still very much out, fans wise. The players seem to like him but that doesn’t always transfer into running a good team.

He seems to have been around for years, but do we really know him? I’m inclined to give him more time at Goodison, but, like the talented Mr Ripley, he seems to bump off football clubs with an insouciant air that seduces us into forgiveness.


How long has he got?
Probably longer than he would normally have at Everton if they hadn’t got through so many managers in recent years. At some point they’ve got settle on someone to take them forward for two or three years. The problem is, Marco seems to get itchy feet after a season and may not want to stay that long. But, like the club he manages, he too needs to settle in to a job and give it a few years and make progress, rather than always moving on, if he’s going to get taken seriously.

He’s clearly got talent and quickly makes an impression on players but seems to struggle to maintain that connection in the longer term. He is still relatively young at 41 and has only got seven years under his belt in the dugout, so clearly has a lot yet to learn. Everton is a great place to do it but he needs to keep the fans on board with a mixture of winning football and winning personality. Given the criticism he got on arrival in England, many of us certainly want him to do well. If he reaches out a little more, it would help his cause enormously. But even so, he clearly has a long future in management ahead of him if he wants it. But then again, he may turn out to the new Andre Villas-Boas, be high profile, wear nice shorty coats, do quite well and then tire of the whole thing. And who could blame him if he did?


John Nicholson

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