Roy Keane has commented on the influence of “The Class of 92” and their impact at Manchester United. He means it is all very exaggerated and that those players in real became more of a “myth” than the real thing.
Often if things are said enough times and believed to be the real story, people tend to listen and stick with it, and that is of course sad, if everything is made up and not really does have anything to do with the real thing.
No one would argue that the group of players were talented, but Keane has a point, and maybe the “myth” became even larger, with the fact that Manchester United hadn’t won the FA Youth Cup since 1964, and really not been build up by academy talents.
The first Manchester United team winning the Premier League, had no impact from the academy at all, with most players being bought for big money from other clubs. Manchester United and Sir Alex and previous managers before him had spent a lot of money to be able to win back the league trophy, not seen in the cabinet at Old Trafford since 1967.
So who were really “The Class of 92” and how did it all come about. This is all based on a team that won the 1992 FA Youth Cup, and those players. They defeated Crystal Palace in a two legged final, winning 6-3 on aggregate.
Most of them returned to the same final the next season, but this time losing to Leeds United, and there were probably not a decision by the “mythical men” to establish a group called “The Class of 93”. Paul Scholes played in that 93 final, but was not part of the team winning in 1992. Ryan Giggs was a sub, so we are left with David Beckham, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt. Neville and Beckham both had glorious careers at Manchester United. Nicky Butt added up a great number of games, but was never really a steady first teamer, being often overlooked by Sir Alex Ferguson on several big clash occasions and was sold to Newcastle United.
So you had only two players from that line-up that became steady first team players, you could say that Roy Keane had a vital point. Another strange fact is that Manchester United in 93′ lost the very same youth final against Leeds United. In that team you had Phil Neville, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, going home from Elland Road without a trophy, being beaten by players were hardly no one made any impact at top level football, neither at Leeds or any other place.
So who were those other players in that youth set up of 92, described to have had great influence on the Manchester United future. We have not really found any evidence of that being reality. But in football a team is needed to bring forward single talent and the help from those described below would not made those that became great, great, so of course they had their impact, but not really in the first team picture.
The winger, Keith Gillespie was a great talent, but instead of becoming a steady first teamer at Manchester United, Sir Alex decided to let him leave for Newcastle United. He added up a good career in the Premier League, also playing for Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City. Gillespie represented his country Northern Ireland adding up 86 caps from his debut in 1994 and 14 years forward appearing last in 2008.
Robbie Savage was released by Sir Alex and his talent was not really spotted. He signed for Crewe Alexandria and converted to a midfielder. He relatively fast started a climb back to the top being sold to Leicester City, going from there to Birmingham, on to Blackburn Rovers. He also added up 39 caps for Wales and had spells at Brighton and Derby before hanging up his boots and moving on to punditry and tv work.
Ben Thornley never really got his breakthrough at Manchester United, probably being the most talented of the lot, he just played a handful of games and vanished into non-league football after a short spell at Huddersfield Town. Injuries and difficulties off the field made him one of those stories seen of players being good at an early age, but not really able to fulfill their talent in a senior environment, due to courses, as lack of self discipline or no ability to adjust their lifestyles, that should not be part of sports at all.
Chris Casper was also seen as a great talent and him as many other capped at England youth level. With Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister both well established as first team central defenders, Casper hardly got a look in and was sold on to Reading as Sir Alex stood firm for a number of seasons with his experienced duo. Casper’s career was cut short as he also had to retire due to an horrific injury, breaking both legs and never played again.
Kevin Pilkington was the goalkeeper of the team, and not really ever seen as more than a fourth or third choice by Sir Alex. Pilkington appeared 6 times in the league for Manchester United first team, but never considered a challenger for Peter Schmeichel. Pilkington moved on and established himself in the lower leagues with Mansfield Town and Notts County, adding up 400 league games as a professional.
John O’Kane, who was the preferred right back alternative for the finals, playing Gary Neville in center together with Chris Casper, really never got a look in the first team with Paul Parker being the first team first choice and Gary Neville being seen as a right back talent by Sir Alex. O’Kane moved to Everton and from there to Bolton and Blackpool before becoming a steady act for non-league club Hyde United.
The left back George Switzer was a class act at youth level, and was offered a contract, but he never managed to convince Sir Alex that he could make it as a senior level, being stamped “too small” and seen his contract cancelled. Switzer strangely never made it in league football, only seen in 14 league games for Darlington, and from there moving on to non-league football in the Manchester area.
Simon Davies was seen as a promising bloke. He played 20 league games for the first team, but struggled to get among those regularly named in the squad. He jumped at the chance to join Luton Town and from there moving around in football until his retirement about 10 years ago.
The last one to add up the numbers was Scot Colin McKee. He left Manchester United shortly after those youth finals to join Kilmarnock. It all became a short stay with The Killie’s and McKee moved around to other clubs up north, without making much notice. The two subs on the day, Leonard Taylor and Joe Roberts was never offered any senior terms and left football all together.
So does Roy Keane have a point, yes indeed, but he can not take away the fact that David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs all were home grown talent nursed through the Manchester United youth system, winning a number of league titles and cup trophies both at home and abroad, all being full capped by their countries and establishing themselves in the club first team with more than 2000 senior appearances in all competitions added up among them.