Marco Silva is proving to be a huge success at Fulham, and it comes as no surprise to Troy Deeney, who describes him as one of the most infectious personalities he has ever met. Deeney played under Silva at Watford, where the Portuguese manager’s relentless desire for success and his focus on improving players individually rubbed off on everyone. As club captain, Deeney was involved in internal club discipline, setting down rules and issuing fines for lateness and the like. However, when Silva was his boss at Vicarage Road, standards were so high that Deeney barely remembers anyone getting fined. This is a testament to Silva’s excellent management skills.
Silva was an extremely demanding boss, but in a good way. He had an incredible attention to detail, and after every match, players’ individual stats would be left at their spot in the training ground dressing room on the next working day, which is very unusual. Silva wouldn’t often challenge players about their stats, but when any professional footballer sees a stat saying they’d only won 30 per cent of their heading duels, they make sure that doesn’t happen again the next week.
Deeney admits that Silva’s drive for success was perhaps too powerful during his time at Watford. The team made a flying start to the Premier League season, and news soon got out that Everton were after Silva. That whole situation could have been handled better by Silva and the owners, and results tailed off because of it. Eventually, Silva was sacked but ended up at Everton anyway. The Everton saga was the one thing he wasn’t honest about publicly or internally at the club.
When Silva took the Fulham job at the start of last season, Deeney wasn’t convinced that he was well-suited temperamentally to managing in the Championship. However, he thinks that Silva has learned and matured since his Watford days in that respect. His Fulham side won the second tier in style, playing some great attacking football, and now they are making a genuine challenge for Europe and have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Fulham recruited really well last summer, and Silva’s excellent knowledge of the Portuguese game helped them get Joao Palhinha for just £17 million, who is outstanding in midfield. Then there’s Willian, who everyone thought looked out of shape and past it at Arsenal a couple of years ago but has a new lease of life at Fulham. Silva’s fitness coach, Goncalo Pedro, one of the very best in the business, has had a great impact on Willian. A lot of fitness coaches are like drill sergeants and treat everyone the same in terms of the work they do. Not Goncalo. He listens, treats players like adults, and tailors individual fitness programmes for each player.
It’s not just the new signings who are going well for Fulham. Players like Tim Ream and Bobby Decordova-Reid, who haven’t truly cracked the Premier League before, have improved immeasurably. That doesn’t surprise Deeney because that is what Silva and his team do. They challenge people and make them better.
Deeney hopes that Silva stays at Fulham for four or five years and gets them into Europe because he believes he is capable of that, especially as the club is giving him what he wants in terms of investment. Beyond that, Deeney thinks Silva will end up as an elite Champions League boss because he really is that good.