AS someone who played alongside the legendary Andy Gray for much of his Wolves career, Mel Eves knows a top class striker when he sees one.

Eves, who weighed in with his fair share of goals himself during his time at Molineux in the 1970s and 1980s, relished linking up with Gray in attack when the Scotland internationalist was at the peak of his considerable powers.

“You are talking about a proper footballer there,” he said. “Andy was brilliant to play with. I played wide of him and I also played up front with him. He was top drawer. He had a phenomenal work rate, was great in the air and was as brave as a lion.”

The former England B player has been impressed with Fabio Silva, the Portuguese forward who has joined Rangers on loan from Wolves until the end of the season, in the past few seasons as well.

Silva has struggled to justify the £35m transfer fee which the West Midlands club paid Porto to secure his services back in 2020 and went out to Anderlecht in Belgium and PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands in order to get games last season.

However, Eves feels the 21-year-old has been unlucky not to establish himself as a regular in Gary O’Neil’s team and is convinced he can be a potent weapon in the final third for Philippe Clement both at home and abroad in the coming months.  

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“I have seen most of Fabio’s appearances for Wolves,” he said. “The lad has got an awful lot of ability. He has got everything a striker needs. He is certainly quick enough, he has got good feet, he has got a lot of guile about him, he gets himself into good areas, he knows where the goals are.

“He will give everything for the shirt. Supporters will forgive most things if they can see players are trying and Fabio certainly tries. He doesn’t sulk, he has a go. He runs the channels, he gets up the park, he does his bit. He is decent, a good footballer.”

Glasgow Times: So why has Silva struggled to establish himself at Wolves and why he has been allowed to join Rangers?

“The problem was when he first came he was expected to learn from Raul Jimenez,” said Eves. “But Raul got injured and he was pushed in to the first team before he was ready. It was unfair on him. There was too much expected of a lad who was only 18 at the time.

“Some players, like the Wayne Rooneys of this world, are physically mature at that age. But Fabio was not a big, powerful lad. It is a big ask leading any forward line, but especially in the Premier League. Opposition defenders are pretty ruthless.

“He went out on loan to Anderlecht and PSV last season and played at a good level. I saw him play for Wolves in their pre-season friendlies this summer. He scored goals and did very well. I thought, ‘Yeah, he’s going to get a chance now’.

“I noticed that he had bulked up in the summer. He needed to get physically stronger. If you are going to play with your back to goal and hold the ball up, you are going to have to hold off big centre backs now. They are real units now. At 18 or 19, he wasn’t strong enough for the Premier League. But I think he is now.

“But for one reason or another, it hasn’t really worked out. I think it is basically because Matheus Cunha, Hwang Hee-chan and Pedro Neto were all playing at the beginning of the season. There just wasn’t a chance for him. Even Pablo Sarabia has only just got in because Neto was out. Gary O’Neil has got a real headache over who to start when everyone is fit.

“I think it is just down to circumstances. Other players have stepped up and Fabio has not had opportunities. The club have decided they are well covered in his position and can let him go out again and get games.

“But as long as he stays fit and gets opportunities, either from the start of matches or coming off the bench, I am pretty sure he will do well. He will be desperate to prove a point. Rangers have got a very talented striker in my opinion.”

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So what does Clement have to do to get the best out of Silva? Eves, who works as a co-commentator at every Wolves home game for BBC West Midlands, believes the youngster can be effective in a number of positions. But he would like to see him deployed just off a lone striker in Govan. 

Glasgow Times: “He is not an out-and-out centre forward,” he said. “He would probably thrive playing just off a traditional centre forward. But players are used to playing in different formations now, they are all pretty adaptable.

“He can play in different positions. But for me he is better playing off someone who is the focal point. He can drift into spaces off them. He makes good runs and gets into good goalscoring positions. For me, he is better off playing in a front two or a front three than playing as a lone striker. He is better playing up front in a 4-3-3 than a 4-2-3-1.”

Eves worked as an agent after he had retired from playing and was responsible for bringing many prominent Italian footballers, including Fabrizio Ravanelli and Benito Carbone, to England during the early days of the Premier League in the 1990s.

He thinks taking Silva on loan from Wolves is a smart bit of business by Rangers and is sure they will be a better team in the second half of the 2023/24 campaign than they were in the first half with a player who cost an eight figure sum leading the line for them domestically and in Europe.

“It ticks everyone’s boxes,” he said. “Rangers haven’t had to fork out any money and they have got a very good player who can help them this season. Wolves will be pleased he is getting game. The player will be happy as he can develop his game and prove himself at a good level.

“It just needs to click for Fabio. Like any striker, he needs confidence. But if he starts scoring goals, then Rangers have got a really good player on their hands.”