Manchester United: What Happened to the Rest of the Class of '92?
The 1992 FA Youth Cup winning team of Manchester United have been mentioned a lot over the past few weeks, with the current youth squad winning the cup two weeks ago, the reunion of the famous kids for Gary Neville’s testimonial and with Paul Scholes retiring last Wednesday, memories from nearly 20 years ago have stirred again in the minds of older United fans.
David Beckham, Scholes (who actually didn’t play in the final), Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs (substitute for the final) went on to play out great and famous careers for United and for some of them at other clubs too, but as we all know, it takes more than five players to make a team. Ask any United fan if they could name the rest of the players from that famous team?
So what happened to the rest of the class of '92 and just why have they mostly been consigned to the history books for the last 19 years?
Kevin Pilkington Goalkeeper
The stopper of the team and was highly regarded as a future "Fergie Fledgling" had a huge obstacle standing in his way in making it as a regular first teamer, and that obstacle's name was Peter Schmeichel. Kevin managed to make only six appearances (still the most appearances for a keeper coming up through the ranks at United since Gary Walsh) for the club during a six-year stay, and the arrival of Raimond Van Der Gouw proved to him that he was falling way down the pecking order, and it was time to leave if he wanted to achieve his ambitions.
A loan move to Celtic failed in keeping him at a big club, and so the young keeper moved on to Port Vale where again he failed to establish himself as a first teamer. Spells with Wigan and Welsh side Aberystwyth Town followed, and he eventually found his No. 1 spot at Mansfield Town in the fourth tier of English football.
He made 167 appearances in five years for Mansfield before joining league rivals Notts County when his contract expired. He had a five-year tenure at Meadow Lane and was mainly the established the No. 1 during his time there but was eventually pushed out by Russell Hoult and then Kasper Schmeichel (like father like son!)
Pilkington is now on the books of Luton Town but has failed to make an impact there in getting into the team and was recently loaned back to Mansfield where he was the second goalkeeper.
John O'Kane Defender
A right back who was severely restricted by the progress of Gary Neville. Was twice loaned out to Bury to help with the early part career and after only making two appearances at United in five years he was let go and Everton snapped him up.
Never managed to make it at Everton, and after short spells at Bolton and Blackpool, he joined non league Hyde United where he stayed till his retirement from the game in 2006.
George Switzer Defender
The left back shone in the youth team, and after the final success, he was offered a professional contract from the club. The future did indeed seem bright for the kid, but unfortunately, Ferguson decided that George was too small to make it as a left back and cancelled his contract.
His only football league experience came when he was picked up by Darlington for one season playing 14 games before making his way to non league football in 1995 playing for various local Manchester clubs where he still remains today.
Away from football, Switzer had jobs as an optical technician and also was a van driver for a courier firm.
Chris Casper Defender
Casper served as captain of the England youth team and was a member of the European Championship winning side in 1993. He was always expected to be one of the players to break through, but unfortunately he couldn’t force his way through. After only making two appearances for the club and impressing on loan at Bournemouth and Swindon, Reading signed the young defender in 1998.
Things were going great for Chris, succeeding in cementing his place in the back four for the team until a horrific double leg break in a match on Boxing Day 1999 prematurely ended his career. He never played a competitive game again.
He quickly moved into coaching getting jobs at several clubs and even took over the managerial reigns at Bury for two years before he was sacked. Now back at Old Trafford as a youth coach.
Simon Davies Midfielder
Probably the closest out of this batch of players to actually come close to making it at United. Played 20 first team games for United and even managed to get capped once by Wales but eventually decided his career lied elsewhere and decided to join Luton in 1997 after struggling behind Giggs and Lee Sharpe.
I’ll always remember his one and only goal for United in the Champions League against Galatasaray in a game in which David Beckham also scored his first goal for the club.
He never really found his early promise and became a journey man in football especially in the Welsh league where he won player of the year in 2003. Retired in 2007 and had a spell as Chester manager but now is a youth team coach at the club.
Davies' goal is at 2.20 on the video.
Colin McKee Striker
Offered a contract and given a squad number by the club after the final but only managed one game for the club and went to his native Scotland to join Kilmarnock.
He made 76 appearances at the club before being released and moving on to play for eight different clubs in four years and totaled up 25 games and no goals in those spells. Decided to retire in 2001 at 27 years of age.
Robbie Savage Striker
Yes, that Robbie Savage. Many people forget that he started his career on the books of Manchester United. He started out as a striker in his youth days before reverting to his more commonly known role in the middle of the field.
He was another who was offered a professional contract but unfortunately he never managed to get a game. Moved on to Crewe Alexandra and was part of Dario Gradi’s young team that was climbing through the leagues before moving on to Leicester City where he started to become a household name.
Winning the league cup at Leicester, he later moved onto Birmingham and then Blackburn where he became a consistent good player at those clubs but was also known as one of the dirtiest players in the Premiership. Was capped 39 caps by Wales but due to a few spats with management, he retired from international football in 2005.
Joined Derby in 2008 where he retired this summer at the age of 36.
Ben Thornley Midfielder
Highly thought of by Ferguson and made his Premiership debut before any of the other '92 class Thornley was widely regarded to burst through on the Old Trafford scene in the coming years, however injuries kept halting his progress.
He made nine appearances in the Premiership for United, but it was an injury sustained due to a reckless challenge against Blackburn in a reserves game, damaging his knee ligaments that knocked him backward at Old Trafford. Thornley did actually sue Blackburn for the challenge on him claiming loss of earnings during his spell out.
Eventually left on a free transfer where Huddersfield picked him up whom he played 99 games for. Very short spells with Aberdeen Blackpool, Bury and Halifax followed before joining non league side Bacup in 2005. Still plays now with Witton Albion.
Leonard Taylor & Joe Roberts. Subs
Taylor was released straight after the final whilst Roberts was released two years later both without making a single apperance at the club. After they were let go, they both dropped out of football.
Keith Gillespie Sub
A great prospect for United with big things expected of him but again like others, he fell victim of being behind better players in the pecking order. Failing to dislodge Kanchelskis and with Beckham also coming through, he was used in the deal to bring Andy Cole to Old Trafford.
Ferguson actually says in his autobiography that if he knew of the problems round the corner with Kanchelskis, he would have found another way to conclude the Cole deal without involving Gillespie.
He managed to make 113 games in just three years for Newcastle proving himself as a Premiership player, but he eventually moved tom Blackburn playing 138 times, and he also won the League Cup there. Spells at Leicester City and Sheffield United followed before he went back home to play in for Belfast club Glentoran. Currently plays for League of Ireland side Longford Town and has won 80 caps for Northern Ireland.
So they were the rest of the '92 class. Apart from Savage and Gillespie, who carved out decent careers, the rest slipped into obscurity.
So what will become of the class of 2011? Where will they have ended up in 20 years time?
Quick question time! What did Manchester United (twice), Inter Milan, Dynamo Kyiv, Middlesbrough (twice) and Chelsea all achive in doing in the same season? Left me struggling for a few days this one!