Phil Smith: For every Silva there is a Wilkinson, but should Sunderland have rolled the managerial dice?

Hull City manager Marco Silva.
Hull City manager Marco Silva.
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Sunderland will head to Hull next weekend on the brink of relegation.

Some turnaround from the afternoon when the lights went out at the Stadium but at long last, flickered on Sunderland’s season.

Howard Wilkinson.

Howard Wilkinson.

When the King was welcomed back with open arms, and Jordan Pickford, a local legend in the making, was serenaded in the dark.

When Victor Anichebe was at his bullish best, a symbol of a most unlikely renaissance.

Hull at that point were fading, an improbably strong start predictably giving way to malaise. Their squad was poor, lacking depth and heavily reliant on Robert Snodgrass.

What Marco Silva has done since then suggests that the Tigers, against all odds, have unearthed a managerial genius and convinced him to slog it out at the foot of the Premier League.

David Moyes.

David Moyes.

Sam Allardyce and Craig Shakespeare have done excellent jobs in their respective posts, but both have to an extent, restored two promising squads to a position that reflects the investment and talent at their clubs.

What Silva has done is see a poor squad weakened in January, and turn them into a counter-attacking force. He has transformed a home stadium, boycotted on occasions this season, into a fortress.

It is a feat of managerial genius that strongly suggests a Champions League winner in waiting.

Perhaps it is only a lack of self-aggrandising that has prevented him from already landing at a top European post.

Silva’s work inevitably, and understandably, underlines the argument that Sunderland have made an error in accepting relegation as an inevitability due to the problems in their squad.

If Hull could find a Silva, why couldn’t Sunderland?

It is a fascinating parallel, particularly as the way most analysed the job Mike Phelan was doing at Hull was similar to that of Moyes at Sunderland.

Phelan was a well respected football manager, though of course not with Moyes’ experience as a number one. Doing the best that could be expected with a poor squad, holding things together at a club being torn apart above.

Few voices would have dissented from that, but Silva has blown a hole in it.

Applying the same logic to the Black Cats, and you would say that they should have rolled the dice.

The response to that from Sunderland, of course, would be that they have seen this all before. Many managers have turned it around at the death, only to flounder once the initial glow faded.

If Silva leaves for pastures new in the summer, one of Europe’s giants won over by his work on Humberside, what next for Hull? Will they simply be back to where they started? More than likely.

True, as well, that few managers could have done what he has achieved.

Silva is hinting at a level of brilliance not altogether common. Sunderland may well have found the next Marco Silva had they gambled in January. They may also have found the next Howard Wilkinson. What can unquestionably be said is that good managers can lift poor squads and over achieve, something that has not happened in the North East this season.

Hull’s revival leaves Sunderland and Middlesbrough drifting towards relegation.

Both sides have made a poor fist of their survival campaign. Much has been said about the North East’s systemic problems, a power shift to the South, a chronic inability to attract talent to the region.

There is something in that, of course.

Sunderland have often had to pay over the odds to get players to make the move, locking them in a vicious financial circle. Boro’s main January targets, Jese, Bojan and Snodgrass, turned down Teesside for the sun of Las Palmas, Germany and London respectively.

Sunderland’s failure to attract January targets, however, surely owed as much to impending relegation, high managerial turnover, a mood of apathy and decline.

Many say, too, that such a hotbed of football should bring far more local talent through to the first team squad.

That is absolutely true, though both sides will field a homegrown future England star in their XI on Wednesday.

These relegations will without doubt be self-inflicted.

There are issues for North East football to confront but attracting players would not be so difficult if the club’s could foster a strong playing identity and a sense of a club on the up.

After all, Hull can hardly lay claim to being one of football’s most sought after destinations. Star January signing Andrea Ranocchia has already bemoaned the lack of sun.

Silva, however, will soon make it a place where players are tempted to go.

Managers matter, as does the tone they set for the club.

Sunderland and Middlesbrough have perhaps both not fully appreciated that this season.