Billy Gilmour: SFA 'did all they could' to prevent Chelsea player catching Covid

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell claims Scotland did all they could to prevent Billy Gilmour being ruled out of Tuesday’s must-win clash with Croatia after contracting Covid-19.

Billy Gilmour fends off Chelsea team-mate Mason Mount during last Friday's goalless draw between England and Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Chelsea midfielder was missing as Scotland were eliminated from Euro 2020 after the 3-1 defeat left Steve Clarke’s side bottom of Group D.

Gilmour tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the match after impressing on his full debut in Friday night’s 0-0 draw with England. Clarke admitted the news affected preparations as the 20-year-old was set to start.

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Maxwell has backed the SFA protocols that were in place. Midfielder John Fleck also tested positive for Covid-19 before the tournament began. He was ruled out of Scotland’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Luxembourg and did not feature at all at Euro 2020.

“You take a step back and when Billy has his positive result everyone looks at it and thinks, ‘how can that happen?’” said Maxwell. “But when you look at his movements just as part of his involvement with the team he is in a hotel in Middlesbrough on Thursday.

“He is then on a bus, a plane, another bus, another hotel and into a stadium and onto another bus, another plane and so on. So when people say, ‘how can that happen’ that’s the difficulty of coronavirus.

"It really doesn’t need very much at all and you can contract it purely from touching the wrong thing at the wrong time. It’s so difficult to manage.

“We are well versed in the protocols, we know exactly what the risks are and we have kept the players as secure as we can with a virus which is so difficult to manage.

“Covid is still in our midst, you only have to look at the increased numbers reported yesterday. In these situations you first have to think of the players and wish them a safe and speedy return because in sport we lose sight of the impact the virus has on people.

“We follow strict UEFA protocols throughout the tournament and we are thankful that we have Dr John MacLean – who has led Scottish football’s Covid protocol implementation from a medical perspective – as the national team doctor.”

Gilmour’s diagnosis – he is asymptomatic but must self-isolate for ten days – also had ramifications for England. Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, teammates of Gilmour's at Chelsea, were deemed to be close contacts of the midfielder and are self-isolating as per advice from Public Health England. The players spoke at length in the Wembley tunnel after the game.

Asked if this was wise, Maxwell said: “Everybody needs to be aware of the risks and throughout society there are reminders of the need to be extra vigilant and ultra-cautious, even in a tested bubble.”

Maxwell also addressed the question of Clarke’s future. Although he expressed a desire to sit down with the manager and discuss a new contract prior to the tournament, talks are not imminent.

“We are obviously absolutely delighted he is our manager and we want him to be the manager for a long time to come,” he said. “I’m sure he feels the same because he wants to keep getting Scotland to major tournaments.”

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