In the world of football, managers typically don't start their career until after they retire from playing, usually in their late 30s or early 40s. They also need to hold a UEFA coaching license to manage a team. But there's always an exception to the rule, and that exception is Will Still.
This innovator is just 30 years old and manages a top-half Ligue 1 club without the required license. In fact, he's racking up some serious fines until he gets his paperwork sorted. But let's forget about the technicalities and focus on what makes Still unique. Being the age of 30 and managing a club that competes in one of Europe’s top five leagues, is unheard of. In fact, Still is currently the youngest manager in Europe’s big five leagues. If Will Still managing a top-half Ligue 1 club at his age is not impressive enough, his pathway to management is unlike anything seen before in football, let alone professional sport.
Growing up in Belgium, Still played lower league football, but he knew he wasn't going to make it as a pro player. So he turned to the next best thing: coaching. And his inspiration? None other than the ultimate football game, Football Manager. Yep, you read that right. Still's love for the game and developing tactics and building squads in the virtual world translated to real-life coaching.
But don't get it twisted, Will is still a pro. He's been involved in coaching for a decade, has the highest-level diploma, and is working on his Pro License. He's got the knowledge and the passion to make it in the big leagues. That's exactly what he's doing, Still's approach to the game is unconventional, and it's working wonders for his team. He's taken an underdog side like Reims and turned them into a competitive force. Instead of keeping possession, they take the fight to the big guys and play quick, counter-attacking football that's a joy to watch.
His 'real-life' journey began as an U14 coach at Preston North End, leading to a video analyst position at Sint-Truiden and a higher coaching position with Standard Liege. After climbing the ranks and being promoted within at Beerschot, they made the debatable decision to let him go resulting in a step down to Assistant position with Stade de Reims (with slight reluctance). This proved to be a great move for him as when the Manager was sacked he filled the role as an interim caretaker.
And Still's achievements speak for themselves. He's currently the youngest manager in Europe's big five leagues and is rapidly putting his name on the map. In his first game as caretaker, he held PSG to a 0-0 draw, and he's only lost one game since taking charge, “If you told me five or six years ago that I’d be standing there trying to tell my defenders how to defend against Messi, Mbappe and Neymar, I’d have probably said punch me in the face! It sounds completely stupid!”. The Belgium native has only just lost his first game since taking charge before the World Cup break. With a 1–0 win against Monaco on 12 March 2023, the coach extended his unbeaten start in the league as Reims manager to 17 matches setting a new Ligue 1 record.
Part of their success is due to the tactic of football they play, they don't play possession football but instead taking the fight to the big guys and play quick, counter-attacking football which is a joy to watch.
Another thing to admire about this character is his ability to change languages as if it is nothing.
@primevideosport Will Still's pre-match team talk before his side secured a point away at PSG 😮💪 #sports #football #ligure #reims #psg ♬ original sound - Prime Video Sport
But Still's not done yet. As a West Ham fan at heart, he dreams of managing in the Premier League one day. And with his talent and unique approach to the game, that dream might just become a reality sooner than later with David Moyes & West Ham's precarious position in the relegation zone right now.