How young English coach Will Still found himself in the technical area managing a Ligue 1 game vs PSG: ‘S**t, this is what I dreamed about’
Having to face Lionel Messi in your first game as Reims manager is no simple task, but Will Still relished every minute of it
When Paris Saint-Germain turned up at the Stade Auguste Delaune - Ligue 1 side Reims' home stadium - on October 8, 2022, Reims manager Oscar Garcia was absent from the touchline, missing the clash due to family reasons.
Consequently, this left then-29-year-old assistant manager Will Still in charge of the side, tasked with stopping Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and co.
He ultimately succeeded, with Reims holding the Ligue 1 juggernauts to a 0-0 draw in an ill-tempered match, in which Sergio Ramos was sent off. Just five days later, Reims had sacked Garcia and appointed Still as the caretaker manager, before eventually offering him the job on a full-time basis following an undefeated stretch of five games.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, Still describes how surreal that moment felt, and still feels now.
"It was crazy and totally ridiculous, one of those pinch-yourself moments in life, he explains about that game against PSG. "Weirdly, it happened the year before as well because Oscar [Garcia, the head coach] was suspended when we [Reims] played them at home, so I stood on the touchline as if I were head coach, even though I wasn’t.
"Standing in front of these stars with Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar… When I look back now, I think, ‘S**t, this is what I dreamed of about 10 or 15 years ago’. It was very, very strange.
"When you see your face in L’Equipe and someone hands it over to you saying, ‘Great article’, I think, ‘Holy s**t, that’s me in L’Equipe’."
Still even had time for some complimentary, unprompted words for FFT.
"It’s the same with FourFourTwo speaking to me – I’ve always read the magazine. But to get all these people ringing me, I must be doing something right. I try not to get too carried away, as I know how quickly it can go the other way."
He would be forgiven for getting carried away, though. In the return game against PSG, at the Parc des Princes, on-loan Arsenal forward Florian Balogun scored in the 96th minute to equalise for Reims, stunning the aforementioned superstars.
Additionally, Still is only 30-years-old and yet to obtain his UEFA Pro License, which he is currently studying for.
According to Ligue 1 rules, all managers must posses the license to manage a club at that level, meaning Reims are fined €22,000 for every game they play, due to Still's supposed lack of experience.
Clearly, it's all a whirlwind of emotions - and it doesn't look like slowing down anytime soon.
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.