He rose from assistant supervisor of an under-14s crew to dealing with off with Lionel Messi in simply ten years.
It’s honest to say that 30-year-old Will Still, the youngest supervisor of any membership in Europe’s high soccer leagues, has had a wild experience to teaching.
Still went from obsessing over the Football Manager laptop recreation as a youngster to being a head coach at 24, and now’s in command of Stade de Reims in France’s high division.
In his personal phrases, as he wrote this week for The Coaches’ Voice, “At principally any level in my life, if somebody had instructed me I’d be the pinnacle coach of a Ligue 1 aspect at 30, I’d have instructed them to punch me within the face. It would have been a completely ridiculous suggestion.”
But there’s one massive drawback. He nonetheless doesn’t have his elite-level teaching badges. It means Reims pay a €25,000 ($A38,540) tremendous each match he’s in cost!
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It’s simply one other fascinating titbit within the outstanding story of one of many rising stars of soccer teaching.
Still was born in Belgium to British mother and father, and by his personal admission, wasn’t one of the best footballer round whereas rising up.
He instructed the Daily Mail: ‘I used to be a holding midfielder … I wasn’t the quickest – I can run the 100m in about 10 days.
“(But) I’d by no means cease working … I believe folks completely hated taking part in towards me as a result of I used to be the most important See You Next Tuesday [c**t].”
A grasp of soccer’s darkish arts, as a youngster anyway.
“I’m not like that in day-to-day life,” he stated. “Not in any respect. But as soon as I acquired on the pitch I used to be the dirtiest b****r ever. My mum was at all times embarrassed to look at me.”
But it was the hours he spent on a well-liked laptop recreation, Football Manager, that lit the fuse for his meteoric journey in administration.
“I’d been obsessive about it rising up,” he wrote for The Coaches’ Voice. “Me and my brother would play it relentlessly – we weren’t allowed a PlayStation, so we performed Football Manager on the household laptop.
“We acquired into constructing a squad, choosing a crew, organising coaching, ensuring the crew was getting into the fitting path – the entire particulars. There was nothing higher than that, even when it was digital!”
And by the point he was 17, taking part in within the academies of lower-level Belgian golf equipment, Still realised his taking part in skills most likely weren’t going to ship him a profession.
Instead, he went to England and studied a administration course at Myerscough College in Preston. Part of these research noticed him work as an assistant coach of the U14s at Preston North End (an English second-tier membership).
Paris Saint-Germain’s head coach Christophe Galtier (L) and Reims’ head coach William Still.Source: AFP
In 2014, he returned to Belgium, desperately searching a job in senior soccer.
Still wrote in The Coaches’ Voice: “I went knocking on doorways. I discovered the tackle of anybody I might in Belgian soccer and went to see them. ‘I’m younger and I’m nobody,’ I’d say. ‘But I’ve acquired expertise at Preston, and I’ve acquired experience from school. Can I, in any method, form or type, be of any assist?’”
He was turned down repeatedly – till he went to “the final membership on my record”: second-tier Sint-Truiden, the place he had performed within the membership’s youth Academy.
His first job? Filming an upcoming opponent and doing a little video evaluation. And so he commenced an unpaid apprenticeship as a fresh-faced 21-year-old. He went from video evaluation (even utilizing Football Manager’s database to scout rivals) to finally serving to out on the pitch as an assistant.
The membership earned promotion to the highest flight, earlier than Still adopted his head coach to top-tier rivals Standard Liege and picked up a Belgian Cup title. He even managed to face his brother Ed, the one he had spent so many hours taking part in Football Manager with! Ed was the coach of Charleroi on the time, and remains to be a top-flight head coach in Belgium at KAS Eupen, the place the pair’s different brother Nico can be an assistant coach.
Will moved to second-division membership Lierse in 2017 earlier than one other large twist turned the story. In October, supervisor Frederik Vanderbiest was sacked (somewhat sadly, after a dire run of crimson playing cards).
Then, the membership president made a fateful cellphone name. As Still instructed The Mirror: “It was the start of October, he fired the supervisor and stated, ‘proper, Will, you’re taking over.’ I used to be like, ‘mate, that’s f***ing ridiculous. I’m solely 24.’ He stated, ‘No, no, no. I’m not bothered. You are good. Your coaching classes are good and you know the way to take care of issues.’”
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Still was instantly the youngest supervisor in Belgian historical past. But he picked up 21 factors out of a potential 27, together with a shocking seven-game win streak, and guided the crew to a third-place end after taking up when the membership was second backside.
Still wrote in The Coaches’ Voice: “Although I used to be the pinnacle coach of an expert crew, I used to be additionally nonetheless making an attempt issues out in Football Manager as properly. I’d by no means thought-about that Football Manager had had an affect on my real-life profession however, fascinated with it now, it positively did.
“I acquired fixated on it as a child, and taking part in the sport most likely ignited the fireplace in me that I’ve now as a coach on the touchline. And then right here I used to be, doing it for actual. I bear in mind, after I was at Sint-Truiden, I used to be making an attempt to win the league with them within the recreation as properly!”
The membership went bust and Still moved on once more, this time again to an assistant function at Beerschot the place Still helped yet one more crew earn promotion to the primary division. And when the pinnacle coach left to take up a task within the USA in January 2021, Still was handed the reins and delivered a formidable ninth-placed league end.
The membership introduced in a brand new supervisor on the finish of the season. This time, then-28-year-old Still was supplied an enormous step up – helping at Reims in France’s first tier.
After his comparatively low-key jobs in Belgium, and regardless of his relative inexperience, Reims had taken a daring transfer. But it was a little bit over a yr later when the best shock of his unimaginable story struck.
Head coach Oscar Garcia was sacked in October 2022, and Still was appointed caretaker supervisor.
It occurred, as soon as once more, in a shocking cellphone name from the house owners.
He wrote: ‘Oscar is leaving,’ they instructed me. ‘These are the phrases of your contract, so you possibly can’t go away. We need you to take over.’ I didn’t have a lot alternative or time to mull it over.”
This was a 30-year-old whose solely senior taking part in expertise was in Belgium’s fourth tier as a youngster, whose solely head teaching expertise was temporary stints in Belgium’s first and second tiers. And now, barely ten years after being an assistant coach to an under-14 crew, Still was teaching towards the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and their superstars Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar.
Indeed, he had simply three days earlier than dealing with PSG – however managed to carry off PSG for a goalless draw. It was the primary time since March that the Parisian giants had failed to attain in a match.
Still instructed the Daily Mail: “You replicate on it and suppose, ‘Why the hell am I doing this? How am I within the place to be teaching towards these guys?’”
Reims’ Belgian head coach William Still (C) celebrates with a participant after a draw towards PSG.Source: AFP
He’d been given six video games earlier than the World Cup break to show himself as caretaker supervisor. He went unbeaten, guiding the crew out of the relegation zone and all the way in which as much as eleventh. The house owners had been completely happy – and doubtless greater than a little bit shocked.
Still was appointed full-time supervisor. But there was nonetheless one drawback: he hasn’t accomplished his elite teaching badges. That’s hardly a shock, given he by no means imagined he can be thrust into the deep finish as supervisor of a Ligue 1 membership so early in his profession.
But it means Reims fork out €25,000 ($A38,540) as a tremendous every match he’s in cost.
He instructed talkSPORT: “People say ‘Why’s he not completed it earlier than? Why’s he not completed this or that?’ Well I’m solely 30 and I couldn’t have truly acquired on the course any earlier.
“Normally it’s reserved for ex-pros or ex-coaches so I’ve solely simply acquired on it as a result of that’s the conventional path I’ve to observe.
“I’ve solely simply began it to be sincere, the membership have requested for a derogation to keep away from the fines and say ‘that is silly’, however in the meanwhile each recreation I’m in cost the membership will get a tremendous, I believe it’s €25,000.”
As for Reims? They’re now 13 video games unbeaten, together with snaring one other draw with PSG. No marvel the membership is completely happy to maintain paying fines – even when it it would harm his paycheque.
“Well, it’s been, kind of, negotiated. The membership stated, ‘We’re able to spend money on your profession. simply so long as you retain profitable!’” he instructed the Daily Mail.
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