I coached Luton in the National League, I never cry but will shed a tear if they make it to the Prem
JOHN STILL is not a man to get emotional but admits he may shed a tear at Wembley if Luton are promoted to the Premier League.
Because the legendary minor league boss prepared the Hatters on their way from the non-league to the top flight within 90 minutes NINE Years.
When Still took charge of Kenilworth Road in 2013, the club was not a happy place. They were about to start their fifth season in the National League.
But the east Londoner, who has mentored Leytonstone, Dartford, Maidstone, Redbridge Forest, Dagenham, Peterborough and Barnet, guided them to the title and promotion back to the EFL.
Still said: “The club was down. They felt disadvantaged by the football authorities after suffering all the point deductions that caused them to slip out of the championship.
“It’s hard to get out of the National League and everyone lost heart.
“After a few games it was clear that the fans weren’t with us. There was no consensus in the club. That was the first thing I had to correct.
“People told me when I took over that if Luton wasn’t up 1-0 after 15 minutes the crowd would turn their backs.
“And we’ve had a couple of episodes where I’ve had to comment on that. I asked the fans, “What would happen if the crowd didn’t turn against us?”
“The opposition was always waiting for supporters to take action against us. It hadn’t helped the team. We’ve only won two of our first eight games.
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“We gradually changed that and the fans stayed with us.
“After a game, I gathered the players around the center circle and had a fan out there listening. Things like that helped unite everyone.”
Still points out Wrexham have only just dropped out of the National League after 15 years – and Luton had to overcome the trauma of no longer being an EFL club to have any chance of becoming one again.
He said: “You have to accept that you are no longer a league club, embrace the division and play differently than you are used to.”
“Otherwise you will fight like teams like Scunthorpe and Oldham!”
He still spent nearly two and a half seasons at Kenilworth Road, bringing them not only the upswing, but also midfielder Pelly Ruddock and defender Dan Potts.
Ruddock, 29, was just 19 when he played for the club in the National League. He was loaned out by West Ham before the move became final.
And Still said: “We only paid £25,000 for him. It’s amazing that he’s reached a play-off final outside the Premier League with a non-League club. This is unique.
“Sometimes when you change managers – from me to Nathan Jones, then to Mick Harford, back to Nathan and now to Rob Edwards – they have different ideas.
“It’s a fantastic testimonial for him to be there through different managers and maybe have to pick up on their different ideas.”
“I’ve always had a soft spot for young, hungry players and Pelly fits right in that direction and was perhaps someone who wouldn’t get a chance in the Premier League. I thought he could be good for us.
“He was ambitious and fell into the category of being the right player at the right time at the right club. He has grown with the club.
“Pelly has developed both his skills and his mentality. Having a good attitude, working hard, listening, absorbing information cannot be learned. It’s up to you and doesn’t require any skills. You must have those ingredients, and in Pelly’s case, he had them.”
Potts, on the other hand, was 21 when he joined from the Hammers eight years ago when Luton played in the Second Division.
He said: “I knew Dan’s father, former West Ham defender Steve Potts. I lived near Chadwell Heath where they trained. I knew Dan. As a child, he had to overcome leukemia and regained momentum.
“I thought he would be the ideal person to come join us and rebuild his career. I knew he had the same mentality as his father, so I figured it wasn’t gambling.”
Still will be at Wembley Stadium on Saturday as a club guest.
I ask the legendary boss will he shed a tear if the Hatters win promotion?
He said: “I’m not that type of person but I think it will be because when I look back where the club was when I went there and where it is now it’s extraordinary.”
“At Wembley I’ll be watching alongside wonderful Luton legends like David Pleat and Mick Harford – and if I’m told I’ve only played a fraction of part of their history, I’m glad I was that fraction. “