Not much is known about John Still, but he could well be the man The Daggers need right now. The Chairman certainly thinks so.
An East Londoner, Still did not enjoy a distinguished playing career. He largely played for non-league teams after leaving Leyton Orient in 1970. His career in management has taken him through the non-league game to Peterborough United, Barnet and as Bristol Rovers assistant manager, as well as to Luton Town.
John Still is an old fashioned tactician with a conventional design on the game. He’s old school in that he prefers wingers and a front man in the 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 style of play. His team play a mixture of the long ball and attacking football that can be easy on the eye and you have to admire his record as a manager with promotions and title wins under his belt.
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Still has a talent for lifting teams and an eye for a decent player that he can nurture in his own way. Many a player has been guided by the engaging Londoner and gone on to make a name for themselves. Matt Ritchie of Bournemouth is one such name that has been able to work with John Still, but there are others. Fitness and conditioning are very important to Still and where he likes to play the pass and move type football, this has obvious benefits.
Elite Soccer Coaching Magazine has stated that Still’s “likeable character” and ability to find and develop players from the non-league game have made him one of the most respected coaches in football.
John Still started his managerial career at Leytonstone in 1976 before eventually finding his way to Redbridge Forest in 1989. Redbridge Forest morphed into Dagenham & Redbridge in 1992 while they were still non-league, and this was the first of three occasions when Still would return to the club.
It was in 1994 that Still was invited to become manager of Peterborough United and stayed just over one season. Despite a safe 15th place in the 94-95 campaign, the club had only won three of their first 13 games the following year and it was the end of the road for John. Between his next appointment, he joined Lincoln City as a coach, before joining Barnet.
He led them to two play-off’s while in the football league, but moved upstairs as Director of Football once Tony Cottee had been appointed as player/manager in 2000, but he could do nothing as Barnet slid back into the Conference. With Cottee gone, Still stayed as both Director of Football and manager before deciding to leave at the end of the 2001-02 season and was replaced by Peter Shreeves. Ray Graydon asked Still to join him at Bristol Rovers, but due to the club’s financial plight, Rovers had to cancel Still’s contract and the managerial to-ing and fro-ing started again.
For the second time in his career, Still went back to the non-league Daggers in April 2004. He stabilised the club after bringing in his own players that he shaped and moulded to his way and as a result, the club saw a way forward and an up turn in results.
Still was offered a new two year contract in 2006 and a year later they won the Conference National title and promotion to the football league. He saw the up’s and down’s of life in League Two as he narrowly avoided relegation in his first season before only just missing out on a play-off place a year later.
The Daggers did gain promotion to League One in the 2009-10 season via a Wembley play-off win over Rotherham, but sadly the dream lasted until the final day of the 2011-12 season. In January 2013, Luton Town came knocking and Still decided it was time for pastures new.
The Hatters had been relegated to the Conference by this time and Still decided to re-build for the next season. A complete overhaul of playing staff and non-playing staff took place in the summer that year and Still delivered not just promotion back to the football league, but the Conference Premier title as well. In their first season back, Luton finished a creditable 8th, but a poor run of results led to his dismissal in December 2015, less than a year after receiving an honorary freedom of the borough of Luton award.
In late December 2015, Still returned to Dagenham for the third time, replacing Wayne Burnett. Talking to BBC Sport, Still said: “I’m delighted. The club has been important to me since I was 15-years-old. I’ve come back and it’s like putting on an old pair of slippers. It’s just a case of getting to know the players and trying to get results that are much needed.”
Still signed a contract until the end of the 2016-17 season, with Chairman David Bennett adding: “I truly believe that he is the right man to turn things around.”
The team are currently just above the relegation zone, two points ahead of Yeovil, but four behind Hartlepool. They need points fast and with a tricky game at Newport on Saturday, now is the time to get that run of positive results underway.
If anyone can lift the players with his unique man management style, it is John Still. He knows the games from grass roots up and has given his previous clubs success at the all levels.
You could say that Dagenham & Redbridge are Still in good hands.