Maximilian Kilman: ‘I’m really pushing to be in the England squad. It is my dream’

Estimated read time 7 min read

Maximilian Kilman is reflecting on the days when, long before evolving into one of the Premier League’s most consistent defenders at Wolves, fierce derbies largely comprised playing in varsity matches for the University of Hertfordshire, from which he will formally graduate with a business and sport management degree this September. “I remember Bedfordshire away,” he says, smiling, recalling playing another university. “It was similar to how it is now; the students would be booing, supporting their university, and you felt that rivalry. It was something I really enjoyed, the whole atmosphere and vibe. I am still friends with some of the boys from the uni team. I don’t think anyone expected I would get this far.”

As a teenager Kilman juggled turning out for the university with playing non-league for eighth-tier Marlow and fifth-tier Maidenhead, from whom he joined Wolves six years ago. At university, Kilman starred as a No 10, contributing goals and assists. It was a role he enjoyed a cameo in when Wolves Under-23s earned a comeback victory at Manchester United to pave the way to promotion to Premier League 2 in his first season. After 79 minutes, Wolves, led by Rob Edwards, trailed 2-0 at Leigh Sports Village. “For the last 10 minutes I got thrown up into the attack as a No 10 … I had a tiny say in the game,” he says, typically modest.

Maximilian Kilman playing for Maidenhead United against Torquay in 2018.View image in fullscreen

Wolves, whose now sporting director, Matt Hobbs, spotted Kilman playing futsal while working as an academy scout, have never spent a better £40,000. Kilman is the Wolves captain, at the forefront of the pack. To opponents, he is an imposing 6ft 4in centre-back but he is an unassuming character, a quiet leader. He knocks on the door of the room before walking in to discuss everything from education and England hopes to head tennis at training. “The Brazilian boys are very good. It is really good to work on your technique and it gets competitive.”

Kilman must be a manager’s dream. He is robust, reliable and at ease roaming with the ball. And left-footed. He talks about the advice he gave a group of youngsters on their Abu Dhabi training camp in January. “Being a footballer, every day is like an audition. I always train like I play. I’ve always had that mentality. Like today, if I have to make the tackle, I put my best in. I’ll do extras, go to the gym or get involved with the goalkeepers and do some two‑touch. Today I got involved with the strikers, doing some finishing. I want to keep improving.”

Kilman is one of only three outfield players in the Premier League to have played every second this campaign, Arsenal’s William Saliba and Bournemouth’s Illia Zabarnyi being the others. If Saliba has been central to Arsenal’s title challenge, Kilman has been a key pillar for a Wolves side pushing for a European berth. They go head to head when Wolves host Arsenal on Saturday.

The numbers make good reading for Kilman, who turns 27 next month. He features in the top 10 players in the league for blocks, clearances and the highest percentage of aerial duels won this season. He would have added to his goals tally, too, but his stoppage‑time equaliser against West Ham this month, a bullet header, was controversially ruled out after a video assistant referee review concluded Lukasz Fabianski’s view was obstructed by an offside Tawanda Chirewa. “Sometimes it can take four or five minutes to get a decision and still it can be wrong. I think getting ex-players into refereeing would help. They have been there: they know how it is, they know the gamesmanship, all the little tactics and techniques.”

Maximilian Kilman scores a goal which is later disallowed by VAR during the Premier League match between Wolves and West Ham at Molineux on 6 April 2024View image in fullscreen

By his own admission, Kilman is not the type to shout or bawl, “not naturally loud”. So, was he surprised when he was named captain last August? “If you had asked me that question when I first came into Wolves when there was [Conor] Coady, [João] Moutinho, [Rúben] Neves, [Romain] Saïss, so many experienced and really good players, I would have said: ‘No chance.’ But a lot has happened recently and a lot of big, experienced players have left and I am one of the most experienced players left, and I have been at the club longest.”

He completed his degree before Christmas. “One module I really enjoyed was accounting. Hopefully I can take my degree into my career after football, if I want to do something regarding business or sports management.”

What kind of student was he? “I was a bit lazy – I was someone who did all of my work last-minute, but I always got it done. The night before the deadline I’d be at home finishing everything after spending the whole day working on my assignments. I think it paid off.”

Last week Kilman came up against the manager who gave him his Premier League debut, Nuno Espírito Santo, now in charge of Nottingham Forest, and he will always be grateful to the Portuguese for promoting him to the first team. Kilman also credits Nuno’s longstanding fitness coach, António Dias, for getting him up to speed. “I was a big, strong boy but I had so much to work on,” he says.

After helping Wolves Under-23s win their division, Kilman was asked a question by Nuno that shaped his future.

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“The week after, the under-23s were going to Marbella to recover – and celebrate a little bit. Nuno said: ‘Do you want to go with them or stay and train with the first team?’ I think he was kind of testing me and I think I made the right decision because that week he brought me on against Fulham.”

Maximilian Kilman during the futsal international between England and Poland at St Georges Park on 14 November 2015View image in fullscreen

Some of Kilman’s former futsal teammates are honoured on the “cap wall” at St George’s Park, celebrating those who have made at least 50 appearances for their country. The names of Luke Ballinger and Doug Reed keep company with fellow centurions including Sir Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. Kilman earned 25 caps between the ages of 18 and 21, before swapping Maidenhead for Molineux. “If I played my whole career, I probably would have broken the [futsal caps] record. I have a very unique story. I wouldn’t change it.”

When Andriy Shevchenko was in charge of Ukraine he called Kilman, whose mother, Maria, and father, Alex, were born in Kyiv and Odesa respectively, into a training camp but Fifa regulations prevent players from switching nationalities if they played competitive matches for another country in a different sport. Kilman, who grew up in London, has represented England in Germany – he struck the equaliser to earn the futsal side a 3-3 draw in Hamburg in 2016 – and would love to do so again this summer, albeit in a slightly different guise.

“I’m not going to give up until it is impossible,” he says. “I know I’ve got to improve but I know I’m doing really well as well; I am definitely competing with the other centre‑backs in the Premier League. Before, my goal was to become a regular at Wolves and now my goal is to play for England and that’s the next step.

“I think I’ve been consistent the last couple of seasons and I think I’m really pushing to be in the squad. It is my dream to play for England.”


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