- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

It’s not often that a manager improves his reputation in a season where his team is relegated.

Marco Silva did just that - and he can expect to have plenty of suitors in the next few months.

The 39-year-old Portuguese coach was hired by Hull in January with the cash-strapped and up-for-sale club in last place in the Premier League. Staying up, he said, would be a “miracle,” and it proved to be beyond him, with Hull’s fate sealed with one game still to play following a 4-0 loss at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

That only tells half the story.

Taking into account only Premier League points accrued since the day Silva was hired, Hull would be in mid-table and punching well above its weight. He was unbeaten at home in nine games until a morale-sapping 2-0 loss to last-place Sunderland last week, and his team played with an organization and cohesiveness not shown in the first half of the season.

“After the new manager arrived,” Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic wrote in an open letter on Instagram late Sunday, “the players began to believe again.”

It wasn’t enough, though. Hull, as a team and a club, was in too much of a mess for one man to repair in four months.

Off the field, fans were disgruntled because of ticket prices and a lack of offseason investment in the playing squad by the club’s owners - the Allam family - who didn’t want to spend any cash while they attempted to sell up.

Within weeks of his arrival, Silva saw key midfielders Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore sold from under his feet to further deplete a squad already short on quantity and quality. With little money to spend, Silva could only strengthen what would soon be an eclectic squad by bringing in players on loan and rejects from bigger clubs.

Injuries also quickly piled up, with first-choice midfielder Ryan Mason fracturing his skull against Chelsea in late January, for example.

The fact that Silva managed to keep alive Hull’s survival hopes until a week before the end of the season is a tribute to his work.

“We started to lose in preseason,” Silva said after the Palace game, “when we were making our preparation.”

Silva, of course, wasn’t there at that time. Steve Bruce was, and he quit three weeks before the season because of a lack of support from the board following the team’s promotion from the second-tier League Championship. Hull could barely fill its bench for its opening league game in mid-August, which they actually won at home against defending champion Leicester.

“You need to prepare better,” Silva added, appearing to speak directly to the owners.

Silva said he will sit down with Hull chairman Assem Allam before the last game of the season, at home against Tottenham on Sunday, and discuss where to go from here. It’s seems unlikely that Silva will be at the KCOM Stadium next season.

“I have enjoyed these four months in the Premier League,” he said. “That was one target I had in my career, and we tried to do our best. Now it’s time to be calm and see what is best, first for the future of the club, and also for my career as well.”

Southampton and Watford are reportedly interested in Silva. West Ham could also be if it decides to release manager Slaven Bilic. Away from the Premier League, Inter Milan has a vacancy and has also been linked with Silva.

Hull is set for a period of turmoil, with the future of the club up in the air and the squad expected to be ravaged by the departure of its highly rated players (Andrew Robertson, Harry Maguire) as well as loanees like Oumar Noasse, Lazar Markovic and Andrea Ranocchia.

Silva - nicknamed “Mini-Mourinho” by some after his illustrious coaching compatriot - appears destined for big things, though. He had previous success at Estoril, a Portuguese team he transformed from a second-tier club on the brink of financial ruin to a Europa League qualifier in two seasons, won a cup in his one season at Sporting Lisbon, then led Olympiakos to the Greek title with six games to spare.

Relegation can be a stain on a coach’s resume. But in Silva’s case, maybe not.


Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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