Tuesday, 26 February 2013

John Still - Once A Dagger, Always A Dagger.

Today is a sad day in the history of Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club. Today, marks the end of an era. Today marks the day when John Still finally stood down as Dagenham & Redbridge manager after almost 9 years in charge at Victoria Road. And that day, is a sad day. He moves on to pastures new at Luton Town where I hope he'll be successful, but it's almost hard to comprehend the unbelievable work he did in this part of Essex for the past eight and a half years.

There have been times in his tenure, when some supporters thought it best he leave. But he never did. He remained loyal until the end and we remained loyal to him. As a supporter of the club, it was a bond that he felt he couldn't break again. At one of the lowest ebbs last season, we remained faithful to eachother and as John always seems to do, he performed a miracle. Him and his backroom staff masterminded a run that saw us retain Football League status and avoid a second successive relegation. Could any other manager have done that? I doubt it.

His commitment to the club should never be questioned by anyone. He has notably turned down job offers from Bradford and Colchester to name but two clubs. He loves this club and that should never be questioned. 

But his reign over the Daggers was defined by much more than that, namely by his ability to churn out non league players into hard working professionals. The names to have walked out of the Victoria Road tunnel in recent years owe a lot to John and I'm sure they've thanked him many times. The likes of Danny Green, Romain Vincelot, Scott Griffiths, Sam Saunders, Danny Foster and Dwight Gayle - all of whom were signed under John Still and developed as players before being sold on at a large profit to keep the club afloat.

The one player who really defines Stilly's ability to nurture gems though, is one, Paul Benson. The forward who is now on loan at Cheltenham Town, was plucked from non league obscurity, the Essex Olympian League to be precise where he was playing for White Ensign. Still and his team of scouts found him, signed him, developed him and in that time both Still and Benson have become club legends.

Dave Andrews and Steve Thompson have said it themselves, John Still has effectively kept the club afloat with the development and selling on of diamonds in the rough. And that's surely one of the biggest compliments that the man can have. He has revolutionised the way we, as a club, operate and has taken us forward from a mid table Conference outfit to a near established Football League club - something few would have thought possible 15 years ago.

The two promotions he masterminded were both unexpected and magnificent. To get the club from the Conference into the Football League was an achievement in itself, but to take it a step further and take a place in League One was extraordinary. Would any other manager have been able to do that? I doubt it. And that's what he offers. Something no one else does. He has that magic ability to almost transform a club given the time.

John Still builds character, he is a man motivator. He has the ability to inspire faith in players and the supporters. Opposition managers don't have a bad word to say of him, in fact a large number look to him for advice. That's surely one of the biggest accolades, being respected by your peers - and he has that in abundance. 

Not only that, he was a man of the club, a man of the people if you like. Very few managers would come into the away end and shake the hands of the travelling supporters - but he did. 

To be quite honest, I don't blame him for taking the Luton hotseat if the monetary benefits that are reported, are true. He'd be mad not too. I'm not sure it's the right job for him, but that's my own personal opinion. The resources available there blow us out of the water so you can see why he'd take it. Nothing however, will ever eclipse what he achieved at Victoria Road and I'm sure he'll agree with that himself.

We have always said that this club will be in a worse state the day that John Still leaves, and it looks like that day is today. Do I blame him for taking the Luton job? No. Do I wish he hadn't have taken it? Of course and any Daggers fan who says otherwise is mad. John Still is my memory of Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club. Ever since I supported my local team, he has been the man in charge. And today, with him no longer being the fourth longest serving manager in English football, it is a desperately disappointing and gut-wrenching end to what has been a fairy-tale story under his guidance. 

Perhaps the most important thing is that he defined what it was to, "Be A Dagger." He always said that to play for this club, you have to be a Dagger. You have to show those desirable qualities that make you unique as a player. You have to want to play for the club and above all, you have to put your heart in 100% of the time. They don't just describe his players, they describe him. Both as a character and a manager. And he'll forever be endowed as a Dagenham & Redbridge legend.

But now, we have to look to the future as well as remember the past. And in true John Still fashion, we have to remember above all, "Never too high with the highs, never too low with the lows." You'll be missed John, but you'll never, ever be forgotten. 

For any comments, you can tweet me at @NickMurphyDRFC.


  1. Top column mate, good work!

  2. Sam Saunders and Danny Foster walked out on the club when their contracts expired but weren't sold

  3. The point was that he developed them as players, although I take the point that they weren't sold.

  4. Shame he told the club that he'd stay but results might suffer as his heart wasnt in the club. The Board had no option but to let him go for next to nothing

  5. just wish he could spell dagger