If you live on the internet, you’ll be well aware that Will Still is something of a football manager phenomenon. The youthful Reims manager took an unusual route to the global stage of managing. Instead of working through his coaching licences, he went the University route, and has since used his book smarts to cause something of a stir in French football.
When he took the reins at Reims, he was without his UEFA Pro Licence, meaning the club was fined £22,000 for every game he managed. This quirky little fact did the rounds on every news outlet under the sun, but it appeared it was money well spent for the ambitious young manager as he went on an incredible 19-game unbeaten streak, took them away from danger, and steered them to eleventh place in the league.
This is all well and good, but what does it have to do with the price of tea in China, or with a claret and blue club in London? Although Still has made his name in the country of his birth, his English connection may lead him to across the channel to England in due time – and speculation is rife that he may find himself in east London when he does.
His parents are English, but he was born in Belgium, and in an interview with The Telegraph in August 2023, he said ‘When people ask me whether I feel Belgian or English, I feel totally English. I was born in an English environment and culture.’ He went on to discuss the Premier League, saying: ‘I think it’s anyone’s ambition to coach and play in the Premier League,’ a promising statement for a potential West Ham target.
Fuel was added to the fire when he was spotted at West Ham’s recent home match against Nottingham Forest, and he then reportedly ‘liked’ an Instagram story showing him photoshopped as West Ham’s manager. Although he has recently signed a contract extension at Reims, even statements carved in stone don’t last forever in this day and age, and West Ham seems like the type of club he could really get his teeth into.
David Moyes, however, must be getting sick and tired of speculation over his future in east London. He’s secured our first major trophy in 40 years, giving Hammers fans bragging rights for years to come.
At the time of writing, we’re in the top 10 of the Premier League and on top of our Europa League group – on paper, you’d give no thought to replacing the man at the helm. In practice, however, we’ve had to watch some poor football, including lethargic performances, and curious team selections.
We yet again find ourselves heading into a run of games without viable striking options, with the one bright young spark sitting on the bench while a veteran ‘striker’ runs himself into the ground to no end. It’s likely inspired Hammers’ owner David Sullivan to keep his options open, but he has publicly denied speaking to Will Still after the Forest games – and rubbished claims that he’s scouting out a Moyes replacement.
Speaking to ClaretandHugh, Sullivan is quoted as saying: ‘I admire what he’s done, but [he’s] too much of a gamble. In a few years, never say never.’ He went on to say he has ‘never spoken to him. These are just mischievous reports that unsettle the club and are totally made up.’
As with most things at West Ham, time will tell whether or not we’re meant for Moyes or if we will still need to move in a fresher direction. West Ham’s lethargic and frustrating football isn’t appealing to watch – but it’s getting the results we need, provided we continue to pop up in the dying minutes of the game to get all three points.
It’d be hard for West Ham to move from wins and stability, even aesthetically displeasing ones, to something unknown and unproven, but with great potential. For now, we’ll continue to admire the enigmatic English-Belgian while staying true to our stubborn, but proven, super Scotsman.