Will Still, the DT who left the Football Manager and is a sensation

In the absence of suspense in the French league, where Paris Saint-Germain have won eight of the last 10 editions and are heading almost unopposed to celebrate again this year, the stories are among the bottom teams. And one of these is that of thirty-year-old Will Still, DT of the surprising Stade de Reims, that club where Delio Onnis and Carlos Bianchi, who also directed it in the 80s, shone for example. With Still in charge, Reims never lost in 17 games and went from having nightmares about relegation to dreaming of getting into a European Cup.

As a boy, Still spent his nights playing the video game football manager -where the user manages a soccer club, from the smallest thing to the matches- together with his brothers. So much so that his mother even forbade them the little machine, which did not alleviate the desire to direct the man born in Belgium in 1992.

When poor results led the Reims managers to dismiss Spanish Óscar García last October, the young Belgian raised in England, who was one of his assistants, took over the reins of the first team on a provisional basis.

At just 30 years old, he became the youngest manager in Europe’s top five leagues, but with no significant experience, making his adventure unlikely to last.

However, the run of good results consolidated his position and the club stopped looking for alternatives. And that Still does not even have the UEFA coaching diploma, which forces Reims to pay a fine of 25,000 euros for each game that their coach sits on the bench.

Since the Colorado Still took command, Reims has not lost any league game: 17 games, with nine wins and eight draws. He has gone from flirting with the relegation places, which cost García his position (one victory, five equalities, four falls), to placing eighth, 20 points from the danger positions with 11 dates left. He is even only four units away from getting into European cups.

Suddenly, France discovered that that adventure that had begun as an experiment resulted in a united dressing room, coordinated and in perfect communion with the coach. It is no coincidence: the youngest coach found himself with the least veteran squad in the French first division.

breaking down walls

Still “has broken down the wall that always tends to exist between the coach and the dressing room,” says striker Alexis Flips, one of his players, who considers him “a brother, more than a boss.”

A relationship that already existed when he was García’s assistant, but that has not changed when he took over the position of “technical”, a name that has prevented his players from using it when they refer to him, who asks to be familiar with.

Still feeds that relationship as a source of motivation, which has boosted a team that mixes passing games with solid defense and efficiency in the rival goal: 23 goals for, seven against and an unbeaten fence in the last six appearances.

Video games, TV and videos

The coach does not deny his origins and remembers that his passion for directing came from a video game that marked his childhood. “We played endlessly with my brothers and now I see myself doing the same thing in real life,” he says.

It was that experience on the screens that led him to abandon his playing career -which never surpassed the Lower Divisions- to, at a very young age, leave his native Belgium and go to train in England as a coach, to follow in the footsteps of his admired Alex Ferguson, whose lessons still live on in that country.

In parallel, he coached the English Preston North End youth team, before returning to Belgium where for years he had a tactics program on public television with one of his two brothers.

Video and data analysis opened the doors of the professional world for him at the club where he had been a player, Saint-Truiden of the Belgian Second Division, which signed him as a video analyst, a position from which he contributed to his promotion to first division.

In 2017 he arrived at Lierse, again as an assistant, but he won the first team at the age of 24 when the coach, Frederik Vanderbiest, is fired.

The team goes bankrupt and Still arrives at Germinal Beerschot, which he once again helps to climb to the First Division as assistant to Argentine Hernán Losada, from whom he once again inherits the position of first coach when he decides to move to the United States league.

At 28, he becomes the youngest coach in the Belgian top flight, although in 2021 the club prefers to sign Peter Maes and Still ends up as an assistant in France, where he is now a sensation.

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