In modern football, most managers hold some type of UEFA coaching license. Most managers often start their managerial careers after their playing career, usually in their late 30s to early 40s.
However, that is not the case for Will Still. Still does not hold a UEFA coaching license. He is also just 30 years old, managing a club that competes in one of Europe’s top five leagues, which is unheard of at his age. 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.
Will Still’s background
Despite being born in Belgium, Still holds dual citizenship in England as well as Belgium. Still was an avid football fan growing up and dreamed of being a coach someday. The route in which many aspiring managers take is to be an assistant of a well-established manager (i.e. Mikel Arteta).
But Still chose a much different path. He claimed to learn much of his knowledge on tactics and formations through the popular video game Football Manager. In short, Football Manager is a video game where you immerse yourself in the role of a football manager. Thus, you are in charge of everything inside a football club from specific tactical instructions to player transfers. Unlike FIFA – the popular game by EA Sports – Football Manager dives much deeper into what you control. The games are simulated, and every decision you make has an effect in some shape or fashion.
Humble beginnings for Will Still
Still’s first experience in professional football came in 2014 when he became a video assistant for the Belgian club Sint-Truiden. Following various stints in different roles in the Belgian league, Still was on the coaching staff at Standard Liége before the staff were relieved of their duties.
Still’s young managerial career would take yet another sharp turn as he was an assistant manager at Lierse, but not for long as the club declared bankruptcy. Fast forward to 2021, Will Still is the manager of Beerschot. Still was promoted from within the club, and he did well at Beerschot before being let go after in what appeared to be a baffling decision by the club.
Following those stints, former Reims manager Oscar Garcia reached out to Still, offering him the position of assistant manager. Still accepted, and it wasn’t long before he became the head man on the touchline. Once Garcia was sacked back in October, Still was given the interim manager title. But the club realized the potential in Still and eventually gave him the title of manager, and they haven’t looked back since.
How has Still fared at Reims thus far?
Will Still has revitalized the Ligue 1 club. This season, Les rouges et blanc currently sit in eighth place and have collected 43 points from 27 matches. They have won 10 matches, drawn 13, and only lost four times in the league. To put that into perspective, Reims finished the 2021-2022 season in 12th place with 46 points. If Reims continue this terrific run of form, they should fly past their points total from the previous season.
Still has done a remarkable job so far as the manager of Reims. At the time of writing, the side has lost just once in their last 22 competitive fixtures. This incredible run of form started when Still took the reigns. The impressive unbeaten run is unrivaled by any other club in Europe’s top five leagues, which includes wins over Monaco, Rennes, and a 1-1 draw with the Ligue 1 leaders, Paris Saint-German. In fact, the Parisians have failed to beat Reims across both meetings this season.
As mentioned previously, Still doesn’t have a UEFA coaching license – the UEFA Pro License to be exact. Reims are fined every match that Still is manager because he doesn’t possess a license, and the amount that Reims pay each match is £22,000. However, Still is currently working on obtaining a coaching license.
Tactics and approach
So, how has Will Still managed Reims through this fantastic run of form? Still typically uses the 4-2-3-1 formation where he likes to build up from the back. Reims is a team that hasn’t seen much of the ball during matches. Reims sees about 46% possession during matches. They look to hit opposing teams on the counter-attack, which seems to have worked wonders so far.
There are several key players in this Reims side that help them tick. Up front, Folarin Balogun (on loan from Arsenal) leads the way with 16 goals this season, which is joint second best in Ligue 1. At the back, Yunis Abdelhamid is an experienced veteran center back who has played his part in keeping 12 clean sheets this season (most in Ligue 1) alongside goalkeeper Yehvann Diouf. Winger Junya Ito has pitched in with five goals and five assists, and the opposite wide man Alexis Flips has tallied six assists. Midfielder Marshall Munetsi has notched five goals as well as two assists.
Will Still’s path to management is something that has never been seen before. It truly is a one-of-a-kind story, especially when certain elements such as him being the youngest manager in Europe’s top five leagues and Reims paying a hefty fine each match are considered. If Still and Reims continue on this impressive run of form, it will be interesting to see if any other clubs will be interested in his services or if Reims will act quickly and get Still to sign a new contract.