Max Kilman’s story is far from straightforward. The 24-year-old defender came through non-league to make it to the Premier League with Wolves and has reportedly been identified as a target for Sheffield United as boss Slavisa Jokanović searches for defensive reinforcements ahead of the new season.
Now 24, Kilman played 20 times for Wolves’ first team last season and it is understood that the Premier League side have no plans to let him leave, with United’s South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley also interested.
An international background
Standing at 6ft 4in, Kilman is under contract with Wolves until 2025 and has a technique honed by his background in futsal, the five-a-side version of football played on a hard court with a heavier ball which places more emphasis on technique and skill.
It has helped shape the careers of players including Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kilman excelled to the point he earned 25 futsal caps for England. Unfortunately, doing so later cost him the chance of potentially representing Ukraine at this summer’s Euros.
Eligible to play for the country of his parents’ birth, Kilman was already on manager Andriy Shevchenko’s radar – his younger brother played in the same youth team as the Ukraine manager’s son, and Kilman’s dad wasted no time telling the legendary striker about his boy’s abilities.
But it wasn’t to be. Fifa decreed that because of Kilman’s futsal caps, he was ineligible to represent any other country in international football. Kilman could have played futsal in Europe, but his life changed when Wolves plucked him from non-league Maidenhead in 2018. Nine months on from his final National League game, he made his Premier League debut.
Blunting the Blades
Kilman’s full top-flight debut came against United, in a 1-1 draw at Molineux, and former Blades loanee Conor Coady was instrumental in ensuring he settled in. “He’s been the best to me, a fantastic role model for me,” Kilman told The Times. “He’s just a top athlete, just a very nice guy.”
Released by Fulham as a 14-year-old, Kilman played in front of just over 100 supporters on loan at Marlow, in the seventh tier of English football, and that humble grounding in many ways sets him out as a typical Sheffield United signing. After all, many of Jokanović’s current squad have experience of playing lower-league football.
“If you asked me whether I’d be in the Premier League a year before I joined Wolves, there was ‘no chance, no way’,” he said. “But it has come and the main thing for me is to not keep dwelling on it, going ‘wow’. I need to keep progressing.
“That’s how I am as a person: I never think I’ve done well enough. I always think I can do better. If I have a good game I’ll always remember that one mistake I made.”