Noel Draper looks back on the chequered career of an Italian striker whose hair was so shocking he probably couldn’t score in a brothel.
Think back to that great Napoli side of the early 90’s. One name stands out in that team, one name that everyone will remember, one name whose goal scoring feats will be celebrated for years to come. I am, of course, talking about the great man himself, Andrea Silenzi.
Andrea started out at his local club in Rome, and after an unsteady start in his first two seasons, he soon managed to find his feet and ended up as the second highest scorer in Serie C2 (a sort of third division) with 18 goals. An impressive achievement considering the defensive nature of the Italian leagues at that time. A move was on the cards after this fantastic season and Andrea was transferred to Serie B giants A.C Arezzo. It was at Arezzo that the seeds of his future were sown. He played in 18 games and failed to find the net. Not once. For a player to have hit such heady heights the season before and then fail so miserably must have been hard on the young Andrea but this was something he was going to have to get used to as it would be the story of his career.
He jumped ship once Arezzo were relegated and found himself back in the third tier with A.C. Reggiana. Suddenly he became a goal machine again and scored 32 goals over two seasons helping Reggiana to promotion to the second division where Pennellone, a nickname that roughly translates as Big Brush due to his height, became the target of several of the big clubs. Napoli won the race to sign him and in 1990 he found himself playing alongside Maradona, Laurent Blanc, Zola and Cannavaro to name but a few. It was at Napoli that his old demons came back to haunt him as over the next two seasons he managed to find the net just 6 times. To be fair to Andrea, Maradona himself only managed 6 league goals in the 1990/91 season and all of those were penalties. A move was on the cards again and at the beginning of the 1992 season he moved to Torino. Once again he suddenly remembered where the goal was and how to put the ball in the net managing 24 goals over three seasons playing alongside a young Benito Carbone. Andrea even managed to win his first, and only, cap for his country when he came on as a substitute against France in 1994.
Andrea had not scored in the league and lost his place to Jason Lee. Yes you read that right, Jason Lee.
Stop the career right there Andrea. Look back at all the good times you have had, the clubs you have played for, the players you have played with and remember that the next move won’t go very well. Ignore the money. Ignore the…
Frank Clark, the then manager of Nottingham Forest, paid £1.8 million for the services of Andrea Silenzi in 1995. What he had hoped he had signed was a tall centre forward with an eye for a goal. What he actually got was a tall centre forward with an eye for a nice wage. At the time, £30,000 pounds a month was a huge salary, especially for an unproven journeyman from Italy. Bemused by the signing but still trusting the wisdom of their manager, Forest fans gave Andrea the benefit of the doubt. Within a few games they began to wish they hadn’t. Silenzi was a 6ft 3″ forward with a bad touch, poor finishing and non-existent build up play. As one wag put it, “His only excess was in the length of his first touch”.
Forest fans and the Forest board were appalled by Clarks judgement and the signing of Silenzi contributed to his removal as the manager. During this time Andrea had not scored in the league and lost his place to Jason Lee. Yes you read that right, Jason Lee.
He was loaned out to Venezia, where he managed to start scoring again, but when the new manager of Forest asked him to come back from loan Andrea refused. Dave Bassett apparently tore up his contract ending the Silenzi saga once and for all. His two years at the club had reportedly cost Nottingham Forest nearly 3 million pounds, or in the currency of a goal scorer, 1.5 million pounds per goal, none of which were in the league. Bassett was quoted as saying “‘The whole business turned into a complete fiasco”.
Andrea, by now 31, continued his career in Italy, scoring occasionally until his retirement in 2001.
If he is remembered, it shouldn’t be for his refusal to score goals for every odd club he played for, nor for his refusal to come back from Italy to a club that held his registration but for one fact, and one fact alone…
He was the first Italian to play in the Premier League.