Luton's former Manchester United keeper admits training has moved on since his time with 'The Class of '92' at Old Trafford

Kevin Pilkington in action for a Manchester United Legends side who won 3-1 at Barcelona Legends back in 2017Kevin Pilkington in action for a Manchester United Legends side who won 3-1 at Barcelona Legends back in 2017
Kevin Pilkington in action for a Manchester United Legends side who won 3-1 at Barcelona Legends back in 2017
Pilkington would have loved to have a specialised coach in his early Red Devils career

The life of a goalkeeper these days is a world away from what new Luton Town coach Kevin Pilkington experienced on the training ground in the early stages of his career.

It wasn’t like the 47-year-old came through at a non-league side either before making his way into the pro game, not at all, for the Hitchin-born stopper was on the books of none other than Manchester United, quite possibly the biggest club in the world, with one of the greatest managers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, at the helm.

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He started out as a member of the now famous 'Class of 92' who won the FA Youth Cup and included future stars such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt. Keith Gillespie and plenty more.

Signing a pro contract following the success, Pilkington had huge competition for the number one jersey, with Danish international Peter Schmeichel the undoubted first choice, Gary Walsh, Tony Coton or Raimond van der Gouw all battling it out at times too.

He did manage to register eight appearances when at Old Trafford though, in between loan spells at Rotherham, Rochdale and Celtic, before leaving in 1998 to head to Port Vale on a free transfer.

With Pilkington recently appointed to bolster the goalkeeping department at Kenilworth Road, working with Kevin Dearden to put Simon Sluga, James Shea and Harry Isted, plus the academy keepers, through their paces, on how it differed to his own training with the Red Devils, he said: "When I was at United we had Alan Hodgkinson (ex-Sheffield United and England keeper) on a Monday and that was it.

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“We had a two-hour session and for the rest of the week you were just chucked in with the rest of the players.

“You see at the top level now that they have a main goalkeeping coach and then another, very similar to what we’re doing here at Luton.

"The role is always adapting and you have to move with the times as well.”

Although Pilkington’s training regime may have left something to be desired in the modern era, his education as one of 'Fergie's Fledglings' was the absolute opposite, as he continued: “I was a very lucky boy to get into that environment at that football club.

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"I learned so much from my time there, not just as a footballer but as a person as well.

"You hear a lot of the boys from that era say that if they hadn’t made it as a footballer they would have been okay because they would have made it as a person, as that was the biggest thing instilled in the team, discipline, respect, how to treat people.

"I had that all from my mum and dad anyway but it was even further enforced by the football club as well.

"To work with them was incredible, Sir Alex, I cant speak highly enough of him.

"He was brilliant to me then and brilliant to me now.

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"Whenever I see him now he will always have a chat, he knows what you are doing and he’s a fantastic man.

"To learn from the best – Peter Schmeichel – you wouldn't teach a lot of what he did to goalkeepers because he was very different but very, very effective and for me that is what a goalkeeper is about now.

"It is not about how you keep the ball out the net, it is how effective you are at keeping the ball out of the net.

"People have got different styles, especially now where the game is evolving, people do it in different ways but it is working out what is best for that goalkeeper at that time, so I have been fortunate to work under some very good people.”

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The stopper managed to make over 400 appearances during his career which included a spell at Luton, although the bulk of his outings were for either Mansfield Town or Notts County.

He would have loved the opportunity to work with a specialised coach though, as most current keepers do, adding: "I would have benefited more from it.

"You look at the likes of them now, you have the analysts and see where you can improve, you can see the opposition, see what they are good at and what their threats are.

"It's not just goalkeeper coaches, it’s the times.

"Right now we’re talking over Zoom, so everything moves, you have to be flexible and not get stuck in the past.

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"Don’t get me wrong, there is some stuff from the past I will never get away from but there is stuff you have to change as well.

“Managers want so much more from the goalkeepers now other than just making saves so you have to put that into training as well.

"It's just working on every single aspect most days, not just focus on keeping it out the net but ultimately that is the biggest aim, to get that zero at the end of the game however you do that.”