Reims’ 30-year-old British manager Will Still has dreams of managing in England one day: ‘It would be amazing’
Still is currently impressing in Ligue 1 with Reims, and charts his coaching career to FourFourTwo
Will Still has been excelling in Ligue 1 since taking over Reims in October 2022, helping stabilise the club in the league with seven wins, seven draws and one loss at the time of writing.
Only 30-years-old, Still has quickly developed into one of the most-promising young managers in Europe, and despite performing well with Reims in France, he does harbour ambitions to return to England - the country where he grew up - and manage in the Premier League.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, Still explains this dream without putting too much pressure on it happening.
"Every time I go back to England to see family, it feels like home, so even if it was the Championship or League One, it would be amazing," he explains. "If I screw on the brain I had when I was a kid, I’d love to be a coach in the Premier League, as it’s the place to be.
"If it happens, it happens and I’ll be delighted. But if it doesn’t, I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities for me."
Should he make the jump across the Channel in the next 18 months, Still would become the youngest-ever permanent manager in the Premier League, beating a record currently held by Attilio Lombardo, who managed Crystal Palace in 1998 at just 32. Ryan Mason managed Tottenham in 2021 while 28, but only on an interim basis.
Still's path to the top hasn't been exactly straightforward, though. Born in Belgium but moved to England while young, he then headed back to the country of his birth to play football.
It wasn't until he started studying football coaching in his late teens that Still realised he had a knack for it, more so than playing the game. Despite not playing professionally, the 30-year-old has thrived while coaching players, often his senior.
Speaking exclusively to FFT, Still explains his unconventional path into coaching, and the stops he has made along the way.
"When I was a kid, I came up through Sint-Truiden’s youth academy," he explains. "I played at the elite standard of Belgian youth football, then when I was 18 I went to England to do a degree in football coaching at Myerscough College in Preston. I was still turning out for the college where there were links with Stockport County and several other clubs, but I wasn’t getting the same chances as some of the other players and decided that I probably wasn’t physically or mentally made out to be a professional footballer.
"I got the bug from coaching the kids and doing video analysis for Preston’s academy. When I eventually moved back to Belgium I was still playing in the Belgian fourth tier, but at the end of the season I had a choice to keep playing and try to move up the leagues, or really invest myself in video analysis and coaching. I chose the latter.
"I started off as a video analyst at SintTruiden in Belgium [in 2014], although I wasn’t actually paid for my first year there. Then I went to Standard Liege because the coach I was working with [Yannick Ferrera] moved there, but after winning the cup in our first year, we were sacked the year afterwards. I went on become assistant coach at Lierse in the second division – after the coach [Frederik Vanderbiest] was sacked, I was asked to take over when I was only 24, which was crazy."
It was at Belgian side Lierse, which has been dissolved since 2018, where Still's passion for coaching properly developed, gaining confidence in his ability. He is also the last person to have managed the club, but that didn't stop him from being out of work for long.
"It wasn’t until I took over at Lierse that I got the bug for it. We were bottom of the league and went on a 10-game unbeaten run, going from bottom to top. From that moment, I thought, ‘I really enjoy doing this’, but the club went bust, so I went back to being an assistant with Beerschot. In my third year there, it happened again – the manager [Hernan Losada] moved to MLS and the club asked me to take over until the end of the season."
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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.