William Still is the assistant manager of one of the great French sides, Stade de Reims, before which he was the manager of Belgian sides Lierse and Beerschot. All of which is remarkable given that he’s 29 years of age, which for a professional football manager is extremely young.
Still’s had an interesting route through football, and Sportsbible recently ran a profile about how he went from coaching Preston’s U14 side to facing Lionel Messi on his PSG debut. Still eventually chose to focus on coaching over his own playing ambitions (he also played professionally when younger), but one of the things he credits for his fascination with this side of the game is the many hours spent on football management games with his older brother Edward. Edward Still, by the way, is himself coach at Belgian side Sporting Charleroi.
Amusingly enough, their parents banned videogames when the pair were young, but nothing would stop the duo playing their then-favourite game: the EA-developed F.A. Premier League Football Manager 2001.
“We smashed that CD out of the disk tray,” Still says. “We played it for so many hours. And we never bought the new version. We played that disk until it couldn’t read anymore.”
Eventually the pair moved onto Championship Manager, the Sports Interactive-developed predecessor to Football Manager, which Still would play until the wee hours.
“The worst phase came when I was about 14 or 15,” Still says. “You would look at the clock and it was 10 pm and you’d say, ‘Oh I’ll go to bed at midnight.’ Then the next thing you know it’s like half four in the morning. And then you wake up thinking, ‘Why the hell did I do that?’ But yeah, there was a point where it became a bit over the top.”
Still eventually decided to take the coaching more seriously and begin studying to that end. Around this time he also realised that, while he could play, he wasn’t going to be the next Ronaldo.
“Football Manager gave me that impetus to want to set up a team,” Still says. “I wanted to be able to talk to players. I wanted to have that relationship. I mean, I was alright at football but FM allowed me to have that glimpse of what it actually was like to manage a team.
“I actually think people that play Football Manager understand the game a bit more. You’ve got to go into a lot of detail to actually win things and be successful in the game, especially nowadays with it becoming more and more complicated. I appreciate people that are so passionate and so submerged in the game.”
Football Manager is definitely one of those games where the more you put in, the more you get out. I think the last entry I played seriously was around 2017, trying to get Wycombe Wanderers to the top flight—don’t ask me how it went, but I have a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the bargains to be had in England’s lower divisions around that era.
“It definitely opens your eyes to how big of a scale being a manager actually is,” says Still. “A big part of what happens in the videogame is actually what happens in real life, and when you do it day in and day out, you do realise how similar it actually is.
“It sounds stupid saying this but, there were so many aspects of it that came back and made sense. For example, when you make a transfer, you have the initial offer, then a counter offer… then you have a player who doesn’t agree with his wages.
“There’s also general player conversations, setting up training regimes, fitness groups and training programmes; both collectively and individually. And the more you go into the detail of the game, the more you understand how it happens in real life.
“If you play Football Manager the easy way, just setting your team up and making sure your transfers are sorted, then you won’t learn much. But the more detail you go into, the more real it actually becomes. I think Football Manager has helped me become a better coach.”
Well, endorsements don’t come much more glowing than that. The full profile’s well worth a read and goes into far more than management games: Still’s an interesting guy, as well as the greatest fantasy manager West Ham has ever had
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