I’m Europe’s youngest gaffer at 30 and facing Messi after starting out on Football Manager… I cost my team £22k a GAME

YOU cannot quit and restart in real-life football.

Englishman Will Still30, is Europe’s youngest manager – coaching Ligue 1 Reims to unparalleled success.

Reims manager Will Still is the youngest gaffer in Europe

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Reims manager Will Still is the youngest gaffer in EuropeCredit: Rex
Football Manager was a huge influence on Still's life

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Football Manager was a huge influence on Still’s life

The French side are currently on a 10-game unbeaten run and sit mid-table – with the tactician earning universal praise for leading the un-fancied club.

Incredibly he cut his teeth in the game by playing football manager for years.

He would spend many hours sat in front of his computer, alongside brother Ed, who is also a head coach in the Belgium top flight, learning about tactics.

Still is studying for his Uefa Pro License – which is what is needed to take control of a Ligue 1 team.

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That means Reims have to take a £22,000-per-game hit every time they play.

At the end of the month, he will take his team to the Parc des Princes to face off against PSG – and Lionel MessiNeymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Earlier in the season, he managed to frustrate the French champions – stopping them from scoring for the first time this season – in a 0-0 draw.

“You reflect on it and think, “Why the hell am I doing this? How am I in the position to be coaching against these guys?” he told the Daily Mail.

“I think we irritated them at a boiling point.

“Press them, foul them, go and grab them by the scuff of the neck, basically.

“Don’t let them play out, don’t give Mbappe the space he wants… as soon as there’s a little foul, just run at the referee and make it as loud as possible. Just annoy them as much as we could .”

As a player

Making a nuisance of himself is what Still got from his time in Belgium as a player, where he played at amateur level.

“I was a holding midfielder… I wasn’t the quickest – I can run the 100m in about 10 days,” he said.

“I’d never stop running… I think people absolutely hated playing against me because I was the biggest See You Next Tuesday.

“I’d just walk on someone’s foot or, first ball, smash them in the back of neck or something. I’m not like that in day-to-day life. Not at all.

“But once I got on the pitch I was the dirtiest b****r ever.

“My mum was always embarrassed to watch me.”

Still loved the game from a young age

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Still loved the game from a young age
Still caught the coaching bug playing Football Manager, before launching his own career

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Still caught the coaching bug playing Football Manager, before launching his own careerCredit: AFP

Playing Football Manager

It was an obsession with Football Managerthough, that led Still down this path.

“I spent nights where you get to 10 o’clock in the evening, thinking, ‘Ok one more game’, he explained.

And them at 4am. “Oh, I’m still at it.

“But what I realize now, the crazy thing is it’s actually so realistic.”

In the real world, Still began his coaching journey at Preston’s Myerscough College.

There, he got the chance to coach North End’s U14 side – but he wanted more.

So Still got in touch with all his contacts in Belgium football asking if there were any opportunities.

Former club Sint-Truiden came up tumps – offering him work as an opposition analyst.

He even turned to Football Manager again for tactical guidance – using the game’s database to scout players.

Belgium club Beerschot gave Still his first taste of being a head coach

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Belgium club Beerschot gave Still his first taste of being a head coach

Chosen career path

From 2017, Still took various jobs – including roles at Standard Liege and second division Lierse.

At 24, Liege promoted him to be their head coach – however, when the club went into financial difficulty he was forced to leave.

A short stint at Beerschot was followed by talk of him teaming up with Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht.

Instead, he moved to France – working with Oscar Garcia as his assistant on a short-term deal.

Reims called him back that Summer to be assistant, before he took over the reigns from Garcia, who was sacked just two months into the season.

He inherited a group of talented players, including Arsenal’s on-loan forward Folarin Balogun, who is enjoying a breakout season.

This is real life

On-loan Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has flourished under Still at Reims

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On-loan Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has flourished under Still at ReimsCredit: Getty

It’s a lot different managing real-life people, though, than in football manager.

He explained: “In the game, he’s just a player you buy… here you have the whole human aspect.

“How is Balo, an Englishman with that English culture going to fit into a French culture and quite an international team?

“Who is he going to talk to? What environment am I going to put him into at training so that he feels comfortable and can be himself?”

Still prides himself on his ultra-competitive training, where points are awarded for players.

Whoever scores the least amount of points has to buy the rest of the squad a meal.

“It’s just the words,” he said.

“I’m Will, not coach, not gaffer… I just want everyone to be themselves and I’ll be myself first.”

Still costs Reims £22k every time he coaches a game because he isn't qualified

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Still costs Reims £22k every time he coaches a game because he isn’t qualifiedCredit: Getty

Still added: “They put music on that I listen to.

“They’re talking about things I’ve probably watched on telly or done with my mates.

“I’m not going to dive into the conversation because that’s their life. But I understand it.

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“And if I have to tell a player to come off the bench and do this for us, it’s just what words I am going to use so that he knows I understand what he’s feeling.”

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