Sharing the red carpet with Manchester United legends David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville would be an exceptionally prodigious experience for most.
But Burnley-born former professional Chris Casper, son of one-time Clarets boss Frank, has shared significantly more than a carpeted floor with the aforementioned greats of English football.
Casper, who rubbed shoulders with his former Old Trafford team-mates at the premiere of Class of ‘92 in the capital’s West End, has the memories of developing alongside a generation of players that went on to create history.
“It was really good, very interesting, and it was good to see the film,” he said. “It was very well done and very well put together. The main six turned up, which the film is about, so Giggs, the Nevilles, Butt, Scholes and Beckham. I had a good chat with them all and it was good to catch up. I see them all up and down every now and then. I’m still good friends with Gary Neville who I see quite a bit. I see the other lads sporadically throughout the year.”
The former St Theodore’s RC High School pupil was a part of the unforgettable 1992 FA Youth Cup winning side that went on to usher in a glorious era of success at the club, expelling the claims of commentator Alan Hansen that ‘you don’t win anything with kids’.
For the majority of the group, it was the 1994/95 campaign that Sir Alex Ferguson offered them their first team baptism and it’s a period that Casper remembers fondly.
“I remember the manager made a controversial decision to play us in a League Cup game in ‘94 against Port Vale. He was seen as devaluing the tournament by playing the youngsters, but we won the game. That was probably the start of it. Nicky Butt was involved, as was Ben Thornley, Beckham, and Keith Gillespie, who all started to get their chance.”
Fergies Fledglings, an extended homage to the Busby Babes that had preceded them, became prevalent figures at Old Trafford and in 1995/96 contributed heavily to the capture of the Premier League and FA Cup double.
Unfortunately for Casper his involvement at the club drew to an end the following season where he made six appearances in all competitions, including a cameo in the 2-0 victory over Rapid Vienna in the Champions League.
“I’d have liked to have played a few more games, but everything given I can look in the mirror and safely say that I trained to the maximum, and gave everything in every game,” he said. “It was a privilege to have played for United on those occasions and an honour to come through an unbelievable youth system like that with those players.
“When you’re around characters like Alex Ferguson, Eric Harrison, Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd, they shape you and give you your values. It’s not just a footballing experience you get at United, it’s a life experience. They managed to get people to run through brick walls for them. They galvanised teams and individuals. The culture they developed - a winning attitude - was instilled in to the players and made them the characters they are today.”
Then, in the culmination to the 1998/99 season, United emphatically scooped a sensational treble in the space of 10 days.
But it could’ve been so different.
“It’s quite phenomenal really and it’s highlighted in the film really well.,” Casper said. “There was a chance we’d have won nothing. United were down to 10 men after Keane was sent off in the semi-final against Arsenal, then Bergkamp misses a penalty - which would’ve sent us out - and then Giggs picks the ball up from the halfway line and scores arguably the best goal over the last 25 years. It could’ve changed there.
“We were then 1-0 down on the final day against Spurs when going for the title, and obviously in the European Cup final we’re going in to injury time 1-0 down and a Bayern Munich defender air shots a clearance with Schmeichel up. If that clearance gets made, history gets changed.
“It was indicative of United under Ferguson. It’s interesting how history could’ve been different. Thankfully it wasn’t and these lads got everything they deserved and went on to have fantastic careers.”