William Still is the assistant coach of one of the great French teams, Stade de Reims, before which he was the coach of Belgian teams Lierse and Beerschot. All of this is remarkable given that he is 29 years old, which for a professional football manager is extremely young.
Still has had an interesting route through football, and Sportsbible recently published a profile on how he went from coaching Preston’s under-14 team face Lionel Messi in his PSG debut. He still ended up choosing to focus on coaching his own gaming ambitions (he also played professionally when he was younger), but one of the things he credits for his fascination with that side of the game is the many hours spent in football management games with his older brother. Edward. Edward Still, by the way, is himself the coach of Sporting Charleroi, from Belgium.
Interestingly, their parents banned video games when the duo was young, but nothing would stop the duo from playing their favorite game: FA Premier League Football Manager 2001 developed by EA.
“We broke that CD off the disc tray,” says Still. “We played for so many hours. And we never bought the new version. We played that record until he couldn’t read it anymore.”
Eventually, the duo switched to Championship Manager, the predecessor to Football Manager developed by Sports Interactive, which Still would play late into the night.
“The worst phase came when I was 14 or 15,” says Still. “You’d look at the clock and it was 10pm and you’d say, ‘Oh, I’m going to sleep at midnight.’ So the next thing you know it’s 4:30 am And then you wake up thinking, ‘Why the hell did I do this?’ But yeah, there was a point where it became a little over the top.”
Still, he eventually decided to take coaching more seriously and start studying for that purpose. At this time he also realized that although he could play, he would not be the next Ronaldo.
“Football Manager gave me the impulse to want to build a team,” says Still. “I wanted to be able to talk to the players. I wanted to have that relationship. I mean, I was fine at football, but FM allowed me to get this glimpse of what it was really like to manage a team.
“I actually think that people who play Football Manager understand the game a little bit more. You have to go into a lot of detail to really win things and be successful in the game, especially these days with more and more complicated people who 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 win. I think the last inning I played in earnest was around 2017, trying to get Wycombe Wanderers into the top flight – don’t ask me how it went, but I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of bargains in England’s lower divisions around that time.
“It definitely opens your eyes to how great it really is to be a manager,” says Still. “A big part of what happens in video games is actually what happens in real life, and when you do it day in and day out, you realize how similar it really is.
“It sounds stupid to say this, but there were so many aspects that came back and made sense. For example, when you make a transfer, you have the initial offer, then a counter-offer… you don’t agree with your salary.
“There are also general conversations with the players, establishing training regimens, fitness groups and training programs; both collectively and individually. And the more you get into the details of the game, the more you understand how that happens in real life.
“If you play Football Manager the easy way, just setting up your team and making sure your transfers rank, then you won’t learn much. But the more detail you go into, the more real it will become. It helped me become a better coach.”
Well, endorsements don’t get much brighter than that. It’s worth reading the full profile and it goes way beyond management games: he’s still an interesting guy, as well as the greatest fantasy coach West Ham has ever had