Central Coast Mariners winger Samuel Silvera is a shining example of his club’s commitment to handing big responsibilities to young players, writes Matt Comito.
Samuel Silvera is just 22 years old. He’s been to Europe and back again as a footballer, experiencing the highs and lows of the professional game before returning to where his journey began.
On Saturday night, he put his name up in lights for the club that gave him his professional start, scoring the crucial opening goal in Central Coast Mariners’ 2-0 win over Adelaide United in front of a sold-out crowd, the likes of which the region has never seen before.
It should come as no surprise that Silvera is thriving at the Mariners; he’s the latest in a catalogue of young players to come through the doors at the club and elevate their game under head coach Nick Montgomery.
But after returning in the off-season fresh off an underwhelming loan spell at Newcastle Jets from Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira last season, no one could have predicted what was to come next.
Silvera heads toward the 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final as a Semi Final match-winner, with his seven goals in 28 games far and away the best single-season return of his career to date.
“You’re into the Grand Final at the team you made your professional debut in 2019,” said Network 10’s Tara Rushton, speaking to Silvera after the Mariners’ 2-0 Semi Final win. “Talk about coming full circle – and you’re only 22!”
Silvera went on to reflect on the three years that have passed since his A-League Men debut for Central Coast, and what brought him back to Gosford ahead of the current A-League Men campaign.
“This stadium, these fans are unbelievable,” Silvera said. “It’s been an incredible three years. (I’m) pretty emotional, actually, to play again in front of these fans, and to do it like this in my first season back here. It’s been pretty rough, and I’m just grateful I could put on a performance like that and get the goal to help us get into the Grand Final.”
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Silvera departed the Mariners for Paços in September, 2020, making loan moves to fellow Portuguese clubs Casa Pia and Sanjoanense. A one-season loan at the Jets was to follow, before a permanent Mariners comeback on a three-year contract.
“I was blessed to have my debut season (here), such a beautiful club in a great area. The opportunity came for me to go overseas, (and it’s) just unlucky what happened. I got injuries and COVID, so it set me out for about six months, I couldn’t play for six months.
“When I came back (to Australia), I honestly wanted to come back to this club but it just wasn’t right, they were looking for a more permanent player and unfortunately, that wasn’t in the books for me to come here.
“But I’m just blessed that I could sign here again – and now look what’s happened.”
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It’s clear that Silvera’s story is one that’s just getting started.
His recent and rampant development into one of Australia’s most exciting young talents is a testament to the club’s faith in young players, and Montgomery’s ability – working with assistant Sergio Raimundo and his staff – to develop talent at the club, sell that talent on, identify new players and do it all over again.
It’s how the Mariners have turned from perennial cellar-dwellers into 2023 Grand Finalists, recording three successive finishes inside the top six.
Montgomery was once a player among the Mariners ranks; he’s seen the club in its darkest times and has overseen its resurgence to the top table.
Along the way, players like Silvera, Garang Kuol, Jacob Farrell, Josh Nisbet, Max Balard, Harrison Steele and Kye Rowles and more have shown how a club can achieve success on a shoestring budget.
“I saw the club fail,” Montgomery said after Saturday night’s Semi Final, “and coaches come in and whinge about the budget (saying): ‘This club can’t compete with the big teams’.
“Coaches said that and felt that – I never believed that. I came from a working-class background where you put your faith in young people and they give you everything back.”
Silvera scored the opening goal of the Mariners’ second leg win over Adelaide to send the majority of the 20,059 fans in attendance at Industree Group Stadium into orbit.
He was the beneficiary of an incredible solo run from Jason Cummings down the right flank and across the byline.
“I thought I was Josh Addo-Carr running down that line, with the change of pace!” quipped Cummings to Network 10 post-match, likening himself to the NRL star.
“I just had a little change of pace, and I’ve seen Sammy for the cut-back, and I’m just delighted the ball went into the back of the net.”
Cummings added that “it’s not all about scoring goals” – but in the moment, Silvera was sure the Socceroos striker would elect to try and pierce the guard of Adelaide keeper Joe Gauci instead of squaring it into his path.
“To be honest, I thought he was going to shoot!” Silvera said. “At training he’d shoot from anywhere.
“But that’s what we’ve been working on in training, driving to the byline and making sure we’re making the right runs into the box. I made the right one, and thank goodness he found me!”