LONDON (Reuters) - Few managers enhance their reputations while taking a team to relegation but Marco Silva did so with Hull City last season. Now he is adding further gloss to it as unfashionable Watford stand fourth in the Premier League.
Little was known of the former Portuguese full back in England when Hull, bottom of the table, appointed him to succeed Mike Phelan in January.
Winning seven out of eight home games appeared to give them a real chance of staying up and earned Silva plaudits but apart from a draw away to fellow countryman Jose Mourinho's Manchester United, away form was never quite good enough and Hull eventually went down, six points short of safety.
Keeping his options open, Silva was linked in the close-season with Southampton and Porto as well as Watford, who he joined when they sacked Italian Walter Mazzarri.
Having finished only one place above Hull, they were among many people's tips for relegation. But as Michael Owen, England striker-turned-television pundit, said: "I thought they might go down. Then I saw they had appointed him and I thought they'd stay up."
The Watford board backed their man with a net spend on new players of over 44 million pounds ($58.07 million), the fifth-highest in the Premier League after the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Everton.
Early days it may be, but their faith has so far been justified. Holding Liverpool 3-3 on the opening day, Watford have remained unbeaten -- one of only four sides to do so -- in reaching fourth place.
"It’s clear to me we deserved the three points," he said after their dominant 2-0 away win against Southampton on Saturday. "It’s not easy to come here to Southampton and control the match like we did. I’m really happy."
So are the club's supporters, who would hardly have expected to be ahead of teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal, even at this stage of the season.
($1 = 0.7577 pounds)
(Editing by Neville Dalton)