‘If our sup­port helps one per­son, it’s worth it’

BIG IN­TER­VIEW: JOHN STILL LU­TON BOSS BACK­ING CAN­CER CAM­PAIGN

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO - By Stu­art Ham­monds

HEALTH is on the agenda and John Still is in the per­fect place to dis­cuss such is­sues – The Wilt­shire ho­tel, golf and leisure club close to the Cotswolds coun­try­side he loves so much.

The last time his Lu­ton Town side had a free week­end, af­ter play­ing Shrews­bury in a Thurs­day night TV game in Jan­uary, the 64-year-old went to the Woot­ton Bas­sett retreat on the ad­vice of his physio to get treat­ment to cure a long-stand­ing si­nus prob­lem.

This time, while wife Bar­bara en­joyed the spa, Still was recharg­ing his bat­ter­ies and try­ing to come up with the rem­edy to his team’s re­cent ills, with six de­feats in their last seven games af­fect­ing their chances of a sec­ond suc­ces­sive pro­mo­tion.

A crip­pling in­jury list has played a part, the vet­eran boss ac­knowl­edges, but he can sense im­prove­ment be­fore the Sky cam­eras re­turn for an­other League Two pro­mo­tion humdinger at their Ke­nil­worth Road home, which has been re­named The Prostate Can­cer UK Sta­dium for the visit of Wy­combe Wan­der­ers on Tues­day night.

“It’s nice to get away, even if it’s only for a night,” Still told The FLP on Fri­day evening. “We’ve come down here to­day be­cause we changed the train­ing sched­ule with there be­ing no game this week­end. The cloud might have af­fected the eclipse in Lon­don, but it’s been lovely here.

Change

“We’ve had a drive out to La­cock and seen Down­ton Abbey be­ing filmed in the vil­lage. Now we’re go­ing to have a bite to eat and a rest­ful night be­fore I’m back on the road to watch a game some­where.

“You have to take the chance for a change of scenery when you can in this game, how­ever brief it is and es­pe­cially – I’ll say it be­fore you do – when you get to my age!”

Age is but a num­ber for Still, but it does make him the ideal manager of a club for the Foot­ball League’s part­ner char­ity to choose to show­case their Men United cam­paign.

The man who has been man­ag­ing clubs since tak­ing over at Ley­ton­stone in the late 1970s will be 65 next month, and it is males

aged 50

and over who are most at risk from a dis­ease known as the Si­lent Killer.

The Bed­ford­shire ground has been cho­sen be­cause its 10,000 seats rep­re­sent the num­ber of men who lose their life to it ev­ery year, and Still says: “Look, we men aren’t so good at get­ting things checked out, are we? Es­pe­cially men of my vin­tage.

“Neil Har­ris at Mill­wall has been big on the tes­tic­u­lar can­cer cause af­ter his own per­sonal battle, and we all re­mem­ber the ‘Keep your eye on the ball’ posters in dress­ing rooms and at grounds for that form of the dis­ease.

“We wear the Men United logo on the num­bers on the back of our shirts and I am proud to be in charge of the club asked to be the first to give up their ground’s nam­ing rights for the char­ity.

“There will be many fel­las walk­ing into the Prostate Can­cer UK Sta­dium on Tues­day night who have never had it spelled out to them in such a clear way how im­por­tant it is to get checked out.

“This club does some great things in the com­mu­nity, and if this one helps put one per­son suf­fer­ing on their way to treat­ment, then it will have worked.”

The Hat­ters have had a whole host of ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers out for long pe­ri­ods this term due to in­jury – Mark Tyler, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkin­son, Alex Law­less, Luke Gut­tridge, Luke Rooney and Paul Ben­son. Pelly Rud­dock Mpanzu and Jonathan Smith have also suf­fered.

“I don’t be­lieve in luck,” says Still, “but you can’t leg­is­late for miss­ing play­ers as im­por­tant as them for so much of the sea­son. Add in the fact that we sold An­dre Gray to Brent­ford in the sum­mer, and how well he did in tan­dem with Benno last year, we have done so well to be up where we are.

“You’re al­ways go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a bad run and ours has co­in­cided with a lot of play­ers be­ing out. Of course, I’m not happy with how we’ve played re­cently and we should have had more points from th­ese seven games than we have.

“But I’m telling you now, com­ing up into League Two as Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons, we’d have jumped

through hoops if some­one had said we’d be sixth, still in with a shout of au­to­matic pro­mo­tion and with a se­ri­ous chance of com­pet­ing in the play-offs, with nine games to go.

Proud

“This club has come a long way.We lost last week­end, but it was in front of more than 17,000 at a club like Portsmouth, and what also made me proud was our trav­el­ling fans.

“No other club in League Two would have sold out their 2,700 al­lo­ca­tion and when we went over to them at the end, the re­cep­tion they gave us was un­be­liev­able con­sid­er­ing we’d just lost. They recog­nise that we are work­ing hard to keep push­ing their club back up to a level they should be at, which even­tu­ally will be higher than League Two. Just how quickly that hap­pens, time will tell.”

Stand­ing in their way, both in the ta­ble and their next game, are a third­placed Wy­combe side man­aged by a man Still knows well.

Gareth Ainsworth is one of a num­ber of young gaffers who reg­u­larly turns to the ex-Maid­stone, Dart­ford, Peter­bor­ough, Bar­net and Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge boss for ad­vice and guid­ance.

“I’ve know Gareth since he was a player at Lin­coln when I was coach­ing there 20 years ago,” says Still of the 41-year-old Chair­boys manager. “He was all-ac­tion, gave ev­ery­thing in ev­ery game and was the dream pro­fes­sional to work with.

“He’s car­ried that at­ti­tude on into man­age­ment which is good be­cause as a young coach you have to have big eyes and big ears, and he takes ev­ery­thing in.

“Last sum­mer we could have been tak­ing Wy­combe’s League sta­tus, so he’s done a bril­liant job to get them into the po­si­tion they’re in.

“When you’re talk­ing about po­ten­tial man­agers of the year, he should be in con­tention, and I al­ways tell him to en­joy the good times. We’ll have a beer af­ter the game on Tues­day – I just hope he’s not en­joy­ing it as much as I am!”

FRESH FACE: Gareth Ainsworth play­ing for Lin­coln in the mid-90s HOB­NOB­BING IT: John Still took in the Down­ton Abbey film­ing yes­ter­day and vis­ited La­cock, right

EN­DORSE­MENT: John Still is pleased that Lu­ton are re­nam­ing their home The Prostate Can­cer UK Sta­dium for Wy­combe’s visit on Tues­day night

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