Forget another loan or Rangers chat ... Billy Gilmour Chelsea recall from Norwich seems unlikely - and why that's not good news
As it stands, the prognosis seems to be he will be back in three to four weeks. Providing there are no complications, that leaves plenty of time before Scotland’s World Cup semi-final play-off against Ukraine at Hampden Park on March 24. It also helps keep Gilmour out of the firing line. His last three outings for relegation-bound Norwich City have been dispiriting affairs, concluding with that encounter against Crystal Palace just after Christmas which revealed both the good and bad sides of the Carrow Road club’s supporters.
Their gallows humour was superbly evident when those who had travelled to Selhurst Park decided to pretend their struggling team had finally scored a goal. After a chanted 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, most of the visiting supporters then started wildly celebrating despite the fact they were still 3-0 down to Palace and were looking no nearer to scoring than in their previous four goal-less fixtures. These self-deprecating antics even drew applause from the Palace fans.
Not so admirable was the way some fans turned on Gilmour. Some supporters could be heard chanting “F**k off back to Chelsea” in camera phone footage from the game. It seemed the midfielder, who had forced his way back into the side under new manager Dean Smith, was being blamed for Norwich’s continued poor form in the Premier League. The 20-year-old was a handy scapegoat, in other words.
This is what Graeme Souness feared might happen. The former Scotland skipper criticised the move to Norwich at the time. He reasoned that it was more beneficial for Gilmour to keep training with better players every day at Chelsea and then look to impress in whatever game-time he was given by manager Thomas Tuchel.
At least Smith seems supportive. He claimed he had not heard the abusive singing at the time but was later informed about it “because I had family members in the stand”. These family members were clearly shocked as well. How could they not be?
Smith urged fans to remember how young Gilmour is. He offered a stiff defence of the midfielder last week and suggested he would be back in place for the weekend’s FA Cup trip to Charlton Athletic. In the event he wasn't involved, having picked up the ankle injury in training that has since seen him return to Chelsea's training centre at Cobham.
Sadly, it seems that won’t be the end of his adventures in East Anglia. Smith has confirmed that the injury is not serious enough to warrant the player remaining at his parent club. He is only there to be “assessed”. He has in any case already reportedly played too many games for the loan-deal to be cancelled midway through. This detail might leave some Scottish clubs frustrated. Gilmour’s former club Rangers were said to be monitoring the situation.
Somehow Norwich are still very much in the scrap to avoid going down. Despite their wretchedness this season, they are only two points from safety.
Gilmour will undoubtedly have a part to play. Perhaps he will return to help mount a great escape. It just isn’t the great escape many Scots might have in mind for him, which is the one taking him as far away from Norwich as possible.