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Former Maidstone United manager John Still pays tribute to title-winning boss Hakan Hayrettin and assistant Terry Harris

Former Maidstone boss John Still has hailed the work of his successor at the Gallagher Stadium.

Still brought Hakan Hayrettin to the club as head coach after taking charge three years ago.

Hakan Hayrettin and John Still Picture: Steve Terrell
Hakan Hayrettin and John Still Picture: Steve Terrell

The plan was always to hand full control to Hayrettin, which happened a little over a year later when Still announced he would be leaving his head of football role.

Hayrettin has flourished as the main man, helped by assistant manager Terry Harris, with Maidstone winning the National South title.

“It’s absolutely brilliant what they’ve done,” said Still, now head of football at Southend.

“I speak to them most days and I’m so pleased for them.

“It’s funny because I remember a fair while ago Hak was a bit down, I think he’d lost a couple of games, they weren’t scoring and he thought supporters were getting a little bit anxious.

“It’s very hard to get a crowd back and he’s done it unbelievably.

“He’s got a great lad with him in Terry.

“Terry’s worked for me for years and when I left there I said that’s the person you need and the two of them have done an amazing job.

“Their level of consistency over this last three or four months has been incredible.

“They’re going to come up to the National League, they’ve both worked in it before, there won’t be any shocks for them.”

It looked a long road back for Maidstone as they spiralled towards relegation in 2018/19, with the squad requiring a total overhaul.

But they’ve won promotion in the first completed season since, with both the 19/20 and 20/21 campaigns curtailed by Covid.

“Hak had managed at National League level, and the one below, he wasn’t an idiot, he picked things up easily and I thought he was more than ready to take over,” said Still, who stepped down to look after wife Barbara as she awaited a kidney transplant.

“Covid affected a lot of things but once we got as near to normality as there is in football, Hak’s done a terrific job.

“On the back of this terrible illness that’s affected lots of people, to come out of that and get it all together and get it running as he has, has been amazing.

“Once you get a way of doing things set into your important people, the people who start coming in fit in with what you’ve done.

Maidstone United No.2 Terry Harris Picture: Steve Terrell
Maidstone United No.2 Terry Harris Picture: Steve Terrell

“I don’t use the word luck, because it isn’t luck, but if you manage to get all of those little things right, it’s amazing what you can achieve.

“Sometimes people don’t see the little things of how you do your team. It’s not easy to see but it’s easy to see for the person implementing it and seeing it coming together.

“Like lots of things, it’s about selecting the right players in the right positions at the right time and he’s certainly done that.

“He’s picked that up really well and obviously Terry is a very experienced person.

“They worked for me for years and he’s the absolutely ideal person for Hak.

“I said to Hak when we were talking, your best signing will be Terry Harris.

“He’s been there, he’s done it, he knows what’s required, he has a belief in how it should be done and he is going to be your best signing, 100%.”

Still, the only man to win the National League three times as a manager, continues to work in the division as head of football at Southend.

Packed with ex-Football League clubs, including the Shrimpers, it doesn’t get any easier.

“The league gets tougher every year,” said Still, 72. “It’s been incredible this year, the amount of money being spent. It’s shocked me.

“Clubs like Solihull, Notts County, Wrexham and Stockport have put so much money in.

“I know we’ll probably lose a couple of them, once we know who’s going up, but it’s not easy.

“In fact, it’s easier to stay in League 2 than it is to get out of the National League.

“To stay in League 2 you’ve got to be better than three or four, to get out of the National League you’ve got to be better than 20-odd.

“It’s a seriously tough league but you’ve got two good people to lead it in Hak and Terry.”

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