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Hakan Hayrettin on his own as John Still announces final farewell

John Still Maidstone United

Maidstone United’s Hakan Hayrettin is on his own for the run-in after John Still announced his departure as head of football at the end of the season.

A United legend after guiding the club to the Conference title and promotion to the Football League in 1989 during his first spell in charge, the 69-year-old, pictured, came out of retirement last January to support head coach Hayrettin.

The three-times Football Conference winner agreed a 18th month contract on the provision he could bring Hayrettin in as his head coach and allow his friend to draw on his huge experience as he found his feet.

He originally announced his retirement in December 2018 when he stepped down from his third spell as Barnet boss.

Still’s distinguished managerial career spans 40 years and more than 2,000 games since taking charge at Leytonstone in 1976 and going on to guide a number of clubs including the Stones, Daggers, Dartford, Grays Athletic, Luton Town and Peterborough United.

Still told fans he was happy to take a back seat with immediate effect for the final two months of the season in a club statement on Monday.

“When I agreed to come back, I wanted Hak to be part of that and to eventually pass the baton to him. Maidstone was always unfinished business for me and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to come in and renew my association with the club.

“While this time was never going to compete with my first spell here, I hope that along with the owners, Bill, Hak and Ryan, we’ve put things in place that will eventually get the club back up a division and push on from there. 

“I might have been the first to take Maidstone into the Football League but if everyone pulls in the same direction, I certainly won’t be the last.”

Partnership

Still and Hayrettin first joined forces at Luton Town in 2014, weeks after Still won the Isthmian North championship with Grays Athletic. The pair went on to win the Conference title at the first attempt and narrowly missed out on the League 2 play-offs the following season.

Hayrettin said: “I am grateful to John for bringing me here last January and grateful to the club for the opportunity to take it into next season.

“Working with John over the years has been an immense privilege. There aren’t many in this game that command the respect that he does. If I can achieve just a fraction of what he has, then I’ll be a proud man.

“I am very aware of the expectations of this club and I’ll promise you one thing – I will give my all for the cause and so will the team I surround myself with.”

Stones chief executive Bill Williams said: “If, as I suspect, this is John’s last hurrah in football management, I am very glad it was with us. To have had the benefit of his experience, knowledge and knowhow will stand us in good stead in the months ahead.

“While I’ve known John more years than either of us care to remember, Hakan was a new prospect but over the last 15 months I’ve got to see his desire, passion and work ethic and it’s those traits I’ve come to admire and respect, and I will give him every ounce of support I possibly can.”

The Kent club’s co-owner Oliver Ash said: “John brought us much needed experience and stability. We thank him for that and he will always have our affection and respect. Now it’s time to look ahead, finish this season strongly and plan for next season.

“We have decided to give Hakan the opportunity to take over and lead us into next season. The aim is to reinforce our squad and take us higher, as well as to work with our academy and under-23s to bring young, local talent through wherever possible.

“We have also been considering our training schedules. After much reflection we have decided to stick to daytime training. We feel on balance it will be less disruptive, should allow us to attract strong players to the club given a reasonable budget and we should be better prepared for promotion back to the National League as and when.”

Make sure you get your copy of The Non-League Paper on Sunday for the latest news and action from across Non-League over the last seven days.

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Images courtesy of @maidstoneunited/Twitter

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