“It’s something that’s much more than a job. It’s something we love, our passion.”
Marco Silva is happy to admit he’s a football obsessive.
Like Unai Emery, whose Aston Villa team got the better of Silva’s Fulham on Wednesday, and like Pep Guardiola, whose Man City side go to Craven Cottage on Sunday, the game consumes him.
“I believe in some years’ time it will get easier but right now it’s much more difficult,” he says, when asked how hard it is to find balance between his work and life away from the game. “It’s a difficult job to switch off, to be honest.
“I really value the people who have the capacity to do different sports, for example, that makes them forget football. And we have our families as well.
“But it’s difficult because it’s something we’re thinking about from the first hour of the day until the evening, preparing our players.
“With more time, more age, things [will go] in a good way… or not! Maybe it will always be like that, you never know!”
Roy Hodgson’s return to the Premier League at the age of 75 with Crystal Palace perhaps suggests it’s an addiction that’s impossible to kick. But Silva was forced to abstain for 19 long months before he took over at Fulham, following his exit from Everton.
It was a strange, unusual period for Silva, now 45, whose whirlwind career had taken him from Portugal’s second tier with Estoril to a trio of Premier League jobs via Sporting and Olympiakos in the space of six years.
A few months into his separation, the COVID pandemic hit. That made logistics tricky but Silva and his team of coaches made the most of their time away from the game.
“It was a moment to refresh many things,” he said. “The first one was to analyse the seasons before because after Olympiakos, when I first joined the Premier League with Hull, Watford and Everton, it was everything really quick and many changes in this short period of time. Three different clubs in the Premier League in a short time.
Sunday 30th April 1:00pm
Kick off 2:00pm
“It was a moment to analyse everything, not just the last 18-19 months with Everton but what happened before with Watford and Hull. It was a difficult moment for everyone because it was the COVID situation but there was a lot of football on TV for us to analyse. We could not travel to see live games but to have games to analyse, to meet and speak with the technical staff, was to try to keep improving, keep working hard so at that moment to come back [we would] be ready.”
It proved to be a valuable use of the time he had on his hands. Silva hit the ground running at Fulham, winning the Championship with 90 points and 106 goals scored. Back in the Premier League, they’re already mathematically safe from relegation and on course for their best-ever points total in the competition.
He’s hungry for more.
“I can tell you we have the big plan for the next season already there, we’re already on track,” Silva reveals, when asked about whether stability in his role – this is his longest tenure since starting at Estoril – has allowed for long-term planning.
“This season was one of the most important seasons for Fulham Football Club so far because after the last two Premier League seasons, where the club didn’t perform at that level – for many reasons, I don’t want to be unfair because I wasn’t here – this season was crucial for the club to remain in the Premier League.
“We are doing it and we are doing it playing well, improving players, making the fans proud of us.
“We are building the momentum and the platform for next season as well. Next season will probably be even more important than this one because we have to start to sustain this club in the Premier League for everyone to see Fulham as a Premier League club.
“I believe it’s where the club belongs and for this to happen, season after season we have to do the right things on the pitch and off the pitch and show the ambition to compete with all the clubs like we’ve been doing on the pitch but at the same time off the pitch as well. We have to show that in the next few months.”
Silva on Man City
“Everyone who loves football should admire what they’ve been doing. We see so many good things, and so many good things that are really difficult to play against. If you go to press high, the capacity they have to punish you. The last game [against Arsenal] is a good example of it. If you’re in a middle block the capacity is there to frustrate you of the ball and create and explore the gaps they want to do in certain areas of the pitch.
“They have this capacity playing from the back, positional attack… they are the best team in the world in this way because they can punish any team in many ways.”
While Fulham fans may head to Craven Cottage on Sunday cautious about what Man City – a team Silva describes as the best in the country and possibly the world – could do, expectations about what Fulham can achieve next season will be on the rise.
“That’s a normal thing,” he says, inviting the challenge. “Our fans have expectations in a different level and it’s a good sign they raise their expectations. First it shows they believe in ourselves, it reflects what we’re doing – to make them believe more, to dream more that’s a consequence from our performance. It’s a good feeling, a good pressure, a privilege to have this pressure and raise the expectations on yourself.
“It’s up to us to prepare well ourselves. For us to do the same or even better next season we have to do many things.”
Rather than winding down towards the off season, Silva is itching to work even more. It’s his football obsession.
Fulham’s remaining fixtures
April 30: Man City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports
May 3: Liverpool (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
May 8: Leicester (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 13: Southampton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Crystal Palace (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm