Returning Luton coach always believed Town would reach the Championship during his days in the Conference at Kenilworth Road

Pilkington thought the Hatters could be back in the second tier once more

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:06 pm
Kevin Pilkington during his playing days with the Hatters

New goalkeeper coach Kevin Pilkington always had faith that the Hatters would always become a Championship side again during his time as a player at Kenilworth Road, despite the club being stuck in non-league back then.

The 47-year-old moved to Kenilworth Road on loan initially back in November 2009 from Notts County with Town plying their trade in the Conference after a 30-point deduction from the FA cost them a place in the Football League, making the move permanent in the summer and went on to play 33 times, including taking the pitch against sides like Grays, Gateshead, Histon and Kettering.

By the time he left in 2012 to return to Meadow Lane to begin his coaching career, Luton still hadn't been able to lift themselves any further up the football pyramid, but they finally achieved that feat with John Still in charge two seasons later, the Hatters on an upwards curve ever since.

Back-to-back promotions to the second tier followed in 2018 and 2019, while manager Nathan Jones returned to keep them up in 2020, before improving that to a 12th place finish last term, while this year they are giving themselves every chance of a genuine play-off push.

It’s of no surprise to Pilkington though, who returned to the club earlier this month, as he said: “I’ve always thought that (they would be in the Championship), because when they got promoted from the Conference, I thought they would bounce, bounce (up).

"It’s a very, very good football club and people run it the right way.

“When they did go up from the Conference, it didn’t surprise me when they went up again.

"Then, getting to the Championship, it’s where the football club should be.

"There are good people working there, all the lads have the right attitudes.

"I’ve been so impressed with training, how the lads work, the intensity and the quality of it.

“It’s incredible what they have done to get in to the Championship and now we’re looking at the next challenge and where we can go from there.”

Although Pilkington began his coaching career while at Kenilworth Road, helping out with Northern Premier Division side Ilkeston Town, then going on to do the same at Notts County and Cambridge United, it hadn't been something he was looking to get into when calling time on his playing days.

The former Manchester United youngster continued: “It wasn’t to start with.

"When I got into it, one of my friends who was coaching at Loughborough University, he asked me to go along and help out with the university team on a Wednesday afternoon on my day off.

"I started doing that and I really enjoyed it, it wasn’t something I thought I’d step into but once I got into it, I did really enjoy it.

"I then started to do my badges, I went to Ilkeston, helped them out on a Tuesday and Thursday evening when I wasn’t playing and it just evolved from there.

"I got involved with the Great Britain University team and then at the back end of my Luton time, I got a phone call from Notts County to go in there as their goalkeeping coach.

"I wasn’t quite sure about it initially but once I got into it I loved it and have really enjoyed it since.

"Nothing beats playing but it is the next best thing.

"I love goalkeeping, it is my passion, I have been in the game for 32 years now and that is all its been about.

"It is great to help goalkeepers and young goalkeepers as well especially to progress in their careers and hopefully get on the right level to move on.”

Despite having so much experience in the game, particularly after coming through the ranks under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and having spent the last two years at second tier rivals Barnsley, Pilkington insists he is always working on his coaching methods, saying: “You can always learn.

"Even if you see someone and you think ‘I’m not enjoying what they are doing’ but you can still pick up that one per cent, you can take away.

"You are always learning, always adapting, the game is always changing, managers always have different ways of doing things, I learned that at Barnsley.

"I had three or four managers and they are all very different in the way they want their goalkeepers to play so you are always adapting.

"It is a challenge but it is one I think I can rise to.”