‘I want to bring back the good times’: Marco Silva is fighting to prove he can be a winner at Everton and create an era to be proud of
- Manager Marco Silva is determined to create an era of success for Everton
- Silva has enjoyed a record of winning things before moving to England
- The task on Merseyside with Everton calls for patience and a clear vision
- The 41-year-old spoke exclusively to Sportsmail’s Football Editor Ian Ladyman
In Portugal they thought they had bred another Jose Mourinho, if not in style then in terms of talent, stature and promise.
Now, after Marco Silva’s very short spell at Hull City, and his sacking at Watford last season, they are waiting to see if they were right or had rushed to judgment.
At Everton, meanwhile, they think they have a manager for the long-term, a coach with the strategy and energy to accompany an ambitious club into a better future. At Goodison it is this that matters.
Marco Silva is desperate to prove he can be a winner for Premier League outfit Everton
Silva is not a tall man and not immediately imposing. His habit of standing slightly hunched, hands deep in pockets, serves to take another inch off him. But it lends him a look of humility, too, of approachability and normality.
This, his former players say, is one of his greatest assets — Silva’s ability to relate to them, engage with them and lead them.
‘He has an aura about him,’ said Ryan Mason, who played for him at Hull. ‘But he builds up close little relationships with players. He is fantastic.’
Silva wins things, too. At least he did in the years before arriving in England two winters ago. At little Estoril — average attendance 2,275 — his greatest triumph was promotion into Portugal’s top division at the first attempt. Fifth place in Primeira Liga followed and then fourth as Estoril journeyed into the Europa League.
Think of Rotherham in Europe and you may be somewhere near.
Then, at Sporting, it was a Portuguese Cup. At Olympiacos a league title and 17 consecutive wins, a record in Greece.
So, yes, Everton have hired a winner. Not here, not in England, not yet. That may take time. But a winner all the same. Marco Silva was an ordinary footballer but it will be a surprise if he transpires to be an ordinary football manager.
Silva has been compared to his managerial counterpart and compatriot Jose Mourinho
Silva will be looking to keep hold of his key players as he looks to win silverware with Everton
There comes a time in life when you have to stop moving and Silva may have reached it.
He is only 41, but has already lived an itinerant managerial existence. The Everton manager insists it is circumstance, not intent, that makes this his sixth job in only seven years. And now the task on Merseyside calls for patience and a clear vision.
This is not a job in which he can win fast then move on. Silva insists he is ready.
‘When I spoke to the owner we both agreed that we have a long project here and we have to do it step by step,’ says Silva. ‘We have to build a club to be competitive in the long-term.
‘I want to achieve important things here and win, of course. I have only one way to work and that is 100 per cent focus and commitment. That is what drives me and please understand that I was like that at my other clubs too.
‘I understand the point you make, of course. These last years I have not stayed more than one year at a club. But when I started as a manager (at Estoril) I was there for three years and we did amazing things. It was a project. That is what I want to do here.’
Everton feels like a club that needs a new start and some stability. Twice since the David Moyes era, they threatened to leap forward, under Roberto Martinez then Ronald Koeman.
Jordan Pickford is one of those key players that Silva will hope can lead Everton to glory
But with a new stadium planned and an owner not afraid to spend, it feels as though the time must be now. The top clubs in the Premier League do not look as though they are in the mood to wait around so coat-tails must be grabbed. Silva knows this and stresses there must be a shift in culture at the club.
For a start, Everton must stop selling their best players. ‘In the last years, players here did well and then were sold to Manchester United and City,’ Silva shrugs. ‘That can’t happen any more. If we keep them we will get stronger. That’s what other clubs are doing and look at them now.
‘The money is important, of course, but it’s not just that. Yes, we must pay the salaries that some of the other clubs can pay. Players must feel valued here.
‘But when the club sold Romelu Lukaku to United it was not about money. I was not here but I know about this. It’s about having the right conditions here, creating something that helps us achieve. If we don’t, big clubs will take our best players again.’
Silva’s first job in England was at Hull. He arrived in January 2017 with the club at the foot of the Premier League. It seemed an impossible job and they did go down. Briefly, though, a miracle seemed possible.
Silva dragged Hull out of the bottom three, but a home defeat by Sunderland halted the momentum and the stand-out player that day was visiting goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
‘He saved every shot and until this conversation I had forgotten about it,’ smiles Silva. ‘I think I need to remind him.’
While at Olympiacos, Silva led the Greek giants to 17 consecutive victories – a record in Greece
Pickford, 24, is Everton’s goalkeeper now. He is one of a number of young players at the club who seem to have bright futures. Some are homegrown, others are not, but regardless of origin, Silva appreciates he has an obligation to them.
‘They need to show the passion to play for us and then I must have the passion to put them in the squad,’ he nods. ‘I don’t want them to give up because they don’t play for three months. This is a process. It is something we have tried to explain with Ademola Lookman during the last market.
‘It’s easy to understand the very good offer he had (from RB Leipzig), but we did everything to keep him because he has the capacity to achieve big and I want that to be here.’ Everton have not won a trophy since 1995. Back then, Silva was not long out of school in Lisbon. Now, across Stanley Park, Liverpool’s red force appear to be rising and their neighbours cannot ignore it. So there is impatience.
Silva, sitting at a desk at Everton’s training ground, knows talk of ‘the long term’ will not wash without tangible progress. He brought in six players during the summer but his squad still looks a little lop-sided. Lukaku, for example, has still not been replaced.
‘I have an ambition to win and you always must use it to drive you,’ he says.
‘When you are at a club like this and understand the history you have to be ready to give them what they expect. The supporters are hungry and it’s a good pressure. They want it tomorrow but they must be patient.
‘We have changed many things. New manager and new football structure, new players who need to understand me and understand the club. I can’t change everything in three months. I know a manager doesn’t ever have time to look long-term. You have to support everything with results.
‘But if we keep doing what we do behind the scenes — giving the players something new every day and developing the squad — we’ll achieve what I want. I want to win titles here. It’s not easy but I want to do something important.’
However, he couldn’t steer Hull to Premier League safety during the 2016-17 campaign
Results are important in football but so are other things. Everton have always understood this. The day Silva commits to his first long interview as Everton manager finds him standing on the indoor pitch at the club’s Finch Farm training complex.
Around him exists what would appear to be, in the nicest possible way, some form of organised chaos. Everton in the Community is now in its 30th year, reaches more than 1,200 young people annually and this is one of its showpiece events.
Silva and the club director of football, Marcel Brands, insisted every first-team player attend and here they all are, pitching in as more than 60 children and young adults from a variety of backgrounds meet the Everton squad.
The manager walks from station to station, watching, for example, as Leighton Baines addresses a group with mental health issues and young Lookman puts on a skills session. Silva himself met members of the charity’s Down’s syndrome team.
‘I told the board on the first day that I would give them everything they need with things like this,’ Silva says. ‘We know what our big thing is at the club. To do our jobs well and win things.
‘But you have to understand what type of club you are working for and this day helps me understand Everton. To see the kids smiling is worth one or two hours of our day every time. Without this, we are not much are we?’
Silva’s own background was relatively humble and maybe this helps. Or maybe it’s because he is a father of two daughters. Or maybe all that’s irrelevant.
Silva’s Toffees have been doing charitable work with the ‘Everton in the Community’
Some football people are at home in this kind of environment and others aren’t.
What we do know from Silva’s time in Portugal is that he never had a problem connecting with people, with players and supporters. He spent his playing career as right back at a number of Portuguese clubs.
‘I was average,’ he smiles. ‘I was mainly in the Portuguese second division, maybe four or five games in the top league. If I am honest you cannot compare my level even with League One here, maybe League Two.’
Ultimately, home was to become tiny Estoril, on the Portuguese Riviera. The coastal town is flash but the football club is not.
Silva, hampered by knee problems, played 121 league games for them over six seasons but his first notable contribution came in 2009 when he persuaded his team-mates not to strike over unpaid wages.
‘It was a crisis, yes,’ he says. ‘I was captain so had to do something. I knew a solution was coming, a new owner. Some did leave but the rest of us stayed and fought with everything we had.’
Two years later, after retiring at the age of 33, Silva was appointed director of football. Within weeks, with Estoril marooned near the foot of Division Two, Silva became coach. The club won the league. ‘As a 26-year-old player I had tried to understand why I was doing certain things and why the coach was telling me to do certain things,’ Silva says.
‘I started to view myself as a coach would. I thought about my life. I knew I was an average player and that would not change. So what was I going to be do? Stay average? No.
Seamus Coleman and Andre Gomes play football at the charity event at Finch Farm
‘At some stage in your life you have to stand up and prepare yourself to do something and I decided then to do something about my desire to coach.
‘I took the first two levels of badges so years later, when Estoril invited me to be coach after seven or eight games, I was ready. That season we were champions. Then it was fifth and fourth in the top division. For Estoril fourth is the equivalent of winning the title. Really it is. It was amazing.
‘Every time I remember what we achieved it still staggers me. Unbelievable.
‘Afterwards I did win trophies at Sporting and at Olympiacos and broke many, many records in Greece. That was really important. But I can’t say what is my best season as a coach. I think that is to come in the future.’
At home in Portugal, some wonder if the only thing that can possibly derail Silva is the scale of his own ambition.
He left Olympiacos one year into a two-season deal with no job to go to and his failure to build on last season’s bright start at Watford is largely attributed to his clear interest in the Everton job.
But it was this ambition, impatience and confidence that led him to England in the first place so maybe we can’t have it both ways.
‘I took a big risk to come to Hull, I have to be honest,’ he says. ‘But I loved it there, I really did. Great club and great people.
Everton take on Brighton at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon
‘I could have waited but I really wanted to come to England and show my work. So I did.’
It does feel now that a club like Everton was maybe the destination for Silva all along.
When he arrived in England, we were sniffy about him and he hasn’t forgotten.
‘If you do well, you will change the opinion of people whose job it is to talk about football,’ he says.
‘I just have one way to do my job and that is to achieve.
‘One of my goals was to play and I achieved that. Now, at Everton, I want more and more and more.
‘All I can say is that I hope I will be a better coach than I was a player.’
Marco Silva and his squad pledged their support to Everton in the Community at an event showcasing the charity’s life-changing and life-saving work, now in its 30th year. Visit www.evertonfc.com/community
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