‘Mini-Mour­inho’ has Hull howl­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — It seemed Marco Silva had taken on a near-im­pos­si­ble job when he was hired as man­ager of Hull at the start of Jan­uary.

The pro­moted club from north­ern England was up for sale, in last place in the Pre­mier League and plan­ning to sell some of its best play­ers. Money was tight, fans were dis­grun­tled and a squad short on big names had been struck by in­juries in key ar­eas.

Silva, a 39-year-old Por­tuguese coach la­belled “Mini-Mour­inho” by some af­ter his il­lus­tri­ous coach­ing com­pa­triot, was new to the English game and was fac­ing a tough and gru­elling im­me­di­ate run of matches across three com­pe­ti­tions.

At his pre­sen­ta­tion as Hull’s third per­ma­nent coach in a six­month span, Silva said sur­vival in the Pre­mier League would be a “mir­a­cle” but urged fans to be­lieve in him.

Some­how, though, he’s turn­ing things around, just like he did in his first coach­ing job at Por­tuguese team Es­to­ril, which he trans­formed from a sec­ond-tier club on the brink of fi­nan­cial ruin to a Europa League qual­i­fier in two sea­sons.

Silva has worked won­ders in the trans­fer mar­ket and on the field.

Op­er­at­ing un­der fi­nan­cial con­straints, he saw key mid­field­ers Robert Sn­od­grass and Jake Liver­more sold from un­der his feet and re­acted by mak­ing seven sign­ings — pre­dom­i­nantly play­ers on loan and re­jects from big­ger clubs. Striker Ou­mar Ni­asse, for ex­am­ple, ar­rived from Ever­ton, where he had made five ap­pear­ances and not scored a sin­gle goal in the past year; winger Lazar Markovic (from Liver­pool) and Omar Elab­del­laoui (from Olympiakos) were among oth­ers look­ing to re­launch their ca­reers.

On the train­ing ground, Silva worked hard on team shape and or­ga­ni­za­tion, with de­fender Cur­tis Davies say­ing the coach lit­er­ally dragged play­ers into the po­si­tions he de­sired.

Days off were can­celled. Silva was hard, but fair. His im­pact was been as­ton­ish­ing. Hull has won all four of its home matches un­der Silva, hav­ing failed to win any of its pre­vi­ous five at KCOM Sta­dium. Among the de­feated teams were some stel­lar names, Manchester United in the League Cup and Liver­pool in the league last week­end.

Hull also ground out a 0-0 draw at United in the league and was re­garded as un­lucky to lose 2-0 at run­away leader Chelsea, when mid­fielder Ryan Ma­son frac­tured his skull.

Hull — a team with an eclec­tic mix of young­sters, mis­fits and jour­ney­men — has climbed to 18th place and within a point of safety. A trip to Arse­nal on Satur­day sud­denly holds no fear for Silva’s team, and why should it? The last time Silva was in the dugout at Emi­rates Sta­dium he was in charge of Olympiakos, and the Greek side stunned Arse­nal 3-2 in the Cham­pi­ons League in Septem­ber 2015.

“I am not a mir­a­cle worker,” Silva said. “But that is not im­por­tant. I am a worker, I want to work and keep our goal in our minds al­ways, but my feet al­ways stay on the ground.”

It’s a good time to be play­ing Arse­nal, too. Al­most in­evitably, Arsene Wenger’s side is start­ing to im­plode at a key stage of the sea­son, with back-to-back losses to Wat­ford and Swansea drop­ping Arse­nal to fourth place and vir­tu­ally rul­ing it out of the Pre­mier League ti­tle race.

The an­nual de­bate over whether Wenger should stay or go at the end of the sea­son has re­sumed and the at­mos­phere in­side the Emi­rates could be toxic if Hull con­tin­ues where it left off against Liver­pool last week.

“They didn’t have good re­sults in their last two games,” Silva said Thurs­day, “and, of course, the last time I played there it was a great re­sult for us, for Olympiakos. But now it’s dif­fer­ent. Dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tion, dif­fer­ent mo­ment and dif­fer­ent clubs.”


Hull City man­ager Marco Silva urges his side on dur­ing a match against Liver­pool Feb. 4. STEVE DOUGLAS

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