Will Still: Stade de Reims’ English manager says he would love to manage in Premier League | Football News
Will Still – who hit the headlines after leading Stade de Reims to a Ligue 1 record 17-game unbeaten run – says he would “love” to manage in the Premier League one day.
The 30-year-old was born and brought up by English parents in Belgium and made the decision as a teenager to move to the UK to study for a career in coaching.
He has been in charge of the French club since taking over from Oscar Garcia on October 13 2022 and only suffered his first league defeat on Sunday, when Marseille came from behind to win 2-1 at Stade Auguste-Delaune.
Still’s early success has, naturally, caught the eye, so much so that he has been included in the betting odds for the Leeds and Southampton jobs in recent months.
“It just seems completely stupid to me that my name is being put up against names that have done so much more and have been so many more places than I have,” he said in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports.
“I wouldn’t ever dare to compare myself to those people.
“I’ve never really thought about it [managing in the Premier League] because I never expected to be in the position I am so early and so suddenly. Why not? I’ve done some crazy things in the past; I was head coach at 24 and the same thing happened at 28 back in Belgium and now I’m 30 and people are saying this is crazy.
“Being English and growing up in an English environment in Belgium, England has always felt like home and a place that I’d love to go back to. It would feel like coming home, just because the English culture is part of me, part of my roots, part of my family, part of who I am.
“I think if you asked any kid what they would like to do, they’d say they’d love to be a Premier League footballer or manager and I’m no different. I was brought up like everyone else and had the same dreams. I’ll keep at them.
“If it happens one day I’ll deserve it, or I hope I will have deserved it, but I realise how much work there is to do before I get there and how much I’ve got to learn. For now, I will stick it to one side.”
Still says he would be open to managing in the Championship, too.
“Vincent Kompany was at Anderlecht last year and has gone into the Championship and has done an unbelievable job. I think the Championship rivals many of the top leagues in the world.
“All the doors are open. I’m not closing anything at any time.”
‘The Football Manager thing is fun, but I’ve been doing this for 10 years’
Awareness of Still’s coaching career has, undoubtedly, been amplified by the incredible unbeaten run and the fact that, until recently, Reims had to pay a £22,000 fine each time he took charge of a match.
This was due to the fact Still did not have a UEFA Pro Licence, but he is now studying on a course and, therefore, the fine no longer applies.
The fact he was a fan of the computer game Football Manager was taken out of context, too, and many took the opinion that Still was a gaming fanatic who had struck lucky, despite the fact he has been coaching for a decade or more.
He said: “With the Football Manager thing, for example – people think I’m some spotty geek behind my computer that’s just been dropped in at Stade de Reims and is doing an unbelievable job. But I’ve been doing it for 10 years and the experiences I’ve accumulated or tried to accumulate have helped me and are still helping me today.
“People say ‘Oh, he’s got no coaching badges, no qualifications, he’s just played computer games!’ I went to university to study football coaching, I’ve got the highest level diploma you can get, for the moment, in football and I’m studying for the Pro Licence.
“I realise it’s a fun story and one that catches the eye. But I know also that people behind it all know somewhere deep down what the reality is.”
Pressed on his inspirations, Still said he “can learn from anyone”, but Sir Alex Ferguson is the one he has learned the most from.
“He’s remarkable for the period of time he spent at United and also the number of times he was able to repeat and renew a cycle, whether it was the squad, staff or whoever was in the club. They kept on being successful.
“Something I want to be able to do is to renew myself and stay up to date with the latest ways of playing, the latest ways of communication, the latest animating drills and setting new exercises in training. I definitely hope I’ll be a better coach in five to 10 years.”
At the root of that hope is just a simple love of coaching.
“I’d pay to be out there, honestly. If someone gave me the opportunity, I’d ask how much they wanted me to pay to give a training session,” he added.
“I still enjoy putting the mannequins in and I still enjoy determining how big the pitch is going to be and setting things out because, to me, there’s nothing better, as a player, than walking out onto the pitch and seeing the pitch ready.
“I get a proper buzz out of giving training. I used to enjoy training as a player myself, not that I reached the highest level at all. I now really enjoy pushing other people and setting drills out that make them think a bit. On the pitch is where I feel best.”