ANTHONY Pilkington admitted he would have jumped at the chance to rejoin his home town club Blackburn Rovers.

The 32-year-old said discussions about an Ewood return did take place but 'nothing concrete' came of it.

The Blackburn-born star said he was gutted when he was released by the club as a teenager but it only served to strengthen his determination to forge a successful career away from East Lancashire.

Now playing for SC East Bengal in the Indian Super League, Pilkington says not playing for Rovers his still his biggest regret.

"Rovers are my club, I used to go and watch them play when I was younger," said Pilkington ahead of Friday's opening game of the season against big rivals ATK Mohun Bagan. "I would have jumped at the chance to play for them if it was possible.

"There were some discussions, a few phone calls but there were no concrete offers or anything like that. I would have loved to have played for Blackburn but it wasn't to be."

Having been released as a 15-year-old, Pilkington rebuilt his career away from Rovers, first at Atherton Collieries where he was snapped up by Stockport County having scored a hat-trick against FC United.

He went on to play for Huddersfield Town before switching to Norwich City where he helped the Canaries gain promotion to the Premier League.

A move to Cardiff City followed and another promotion to the Premier League but after falling out of favour with Neil Warnock, Pilkington joined Wigan Athletic after five years in South Wales.

"I got released when I was 15, I was gutted," added Pilkington who moved to India following Wigan's relegation to League One. "Being at Blackburn and Manchester United before that, working hard and playing every day but that set back helped set me up for what was to come.

"I ended up working even harder, probably harder than I would have if I was still there."

Pilkington was in a group of players where only Joe Garner was kept on by the club. But he is happy to see the legacy of Jack Walker, who set up the academy system, now baring fruit - with Rovers first team squad packed with home grown players with the likes of Darragh Lenihan, Ryan Nyambe, Joe Rankin-Costello, Scott Wharton, Lewis Travis and John Buckley all academy graduates

"There was only Joe Garner out of that whole age group," Pilkington recalls of his time at the club. "Nine or 10 got taken on but the majority got released.

"When Jack Walker owned the club he wanted to get an academy in place. I think he helped set that up. They've got amazing facilities, the training ground that was built at the time was huge and it was out of this world compared to the rest of the country

"So now the club is producing players, selling players on for big money and the club is benefitting off .

"All that money that was spent on the academy is coming in to play."