The 18-year-old Chelsea midfielder turned in a performance in the FA Cup fifth-round win over Liverpool on Tuesday that belied his youth. And the good news for Scotland fans is that Steve Clarke was there to see it.
The national coach is a long-term admirer of Gilmour and considers him as one for the future, which means this month’s Euro 2020 play-off against Israel may be a little too soon for the Glasgow teenager. But many think he is ready. Pat Nevin, the respected former Chelsea and Scotland winger, thinks Gilmour could be even better on the international stage.
“Some do well domestically then find it’s a technical step up to international football. But I have a suspicion that Billy will be even better at international level than the domestic stage,” Nevin told the BBC. “When you look at a player who has those technical abilities, a field of vision and 360 awareness that he’s got, the confidence and comfort on the ball that he’s got, that’s international player writ large.”
Frank Lampard, Gilmour’s manager at Chelsea, has used the former Rangers youngster sparingly but has given him enough first-team exposure in cup competitions to allow the player to flourish.
Lampard’s willingness to give youth its chance was partly forced upon him by Chelsea’s transfer ban but the manager deserves great credit for the way he has assimilated young players into his first team this season.
Commanding and composed, Gilmour bossed Chelsea’s midfield as they dumped Liverpool out of the cup with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
He showed supreme technique, calmness under pressure and a constant desire to show for the ball in testing circumstances, all topped off with first-rate delivery.
Gilmour’s flawless showing against the Premier League champions-elect had everything, from defensive grit and lung-busting work rate to attacking poise and creative vision. He even pulled off an impudent nutmegging of Brazil star Fabinho. Push all these qualities aside though, in favour of one fact – he boasts his team-mates’ trust.
It’s vital that Gilmour continues to develop and does not get his head turned by the hype which will inevitably accompany his breakthrough. The sad curtailment of Islam Feruz’s Chelsea career should serve as a salutary warning, with the Scotland under-21 international now seemingly lost to the professional game.
Gilmour’s feet are planted firmly on the ground, and experienced Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley has nothing but praise for the Scot.
“For a young lad he is really mature with his ability on the ball, he makes the right decision most of the time,” said Barkley. “He is similar to Jorginho. He is a quality player and a good addition to the squad. He recently moved into the first-team changing room with us and he’s settled in really well and long may it continue. He is always asking questions as well, which is a sign of a player that wants to improve and do well for the club. I like him and the manager and coaching staff love him as well.”