Scotland under-21 international Stevie Mallan has read all the hype about Chelsea teenager Billy Gilmour and wondered if it was justified.
After training and playing alongside the prodigious 17-year-old in the past week, however, the Hibs player now appreciates why his midfield counterpart is regarded as the country’s great hope.
The pair lined up in the middle of the park in Thursday’s 3-0 Euro 2019 qualifying victory over Andorra at Tynecastle.
Despite his age and slender frame, Gilmour delivered an eye-catching performance and was also involved in two of Fraser Hornby’s three goals.
Mallan, one of the elder statesman in the squad at 22, concedes he has been blown away by the teenager’s talent. He said: “When you get a Scottish boy who gets a move to Chelsea, it’s all over the papers and everyone talks about him and you kind of wonder what he’s like.
“I didn’t know much about wee Billy, obviously I knew he was at Chelsea, but once I started training with him you could see how high a standard he’s at. He’s 17 years old, but he’s a very, very good player. You saw that against Andorra with a couple of assists. He’s definitely going to be a big player in the future.
“I have been very impressed with him. He’s eager to play football and that’s what you want as a young boy coming through. He’s loud too. Some boys coming up will be quiet, shy and nervous, but the young boys who have come in have stood out.
“You try to give him a little bit of advice but you also want them to go out and do things on their own too. If I can help him I will, but you could see the other night how well he played.”
Gilmour was not the only teenager to shine against the Andorrans. Hornby, the 18-year-old Everton forward, grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick, while 19-year-old Celtic winger Mikey Johnston tormented the opposition with his mesmerising repertoire of tricks.
Mallan added: “With Mikey Johnston you could see him trying to take players on. It was actually a frustrating game for him because Andorra stuck two or three players on him every time. But you could see his quality, he’s playing with Celtic and he’s in and around the first team.
“Fraser is good with the ball at his feet and he can finish too.
“If you’ve not got a decent striker then you are not going to play well as a team but you could see his quality.
“That’s the first time I have worked with him – to score a hat-trick at any level is good and he’ll take his hat-trick and kick on.
“We have a good mix in the team. We have guys who have been playing regularly in the first team mixed with the younger boys who are coming through like Billy and Fraser. We have a youthful team blended in with experience.”
Following a frustrating time at Barnsley that saw Mallan restricted to only nine appearances, the former St Mirren playmaker is also thrilled to have earned his first cap in six months following an early season renaissance at Easter Road.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s must-win clash against the Netherlands in Arnhem, Mallan added: “In the space of a month and a half I have played more football than I did in the whole of last season. I couldn’t be more pleased about that. I have a manager in Neil Lennon who has faith in me and just wants me to do well. I am in a happy position now and I just want to keep going.”