Billy Gilmour gives Scotland a fighting chance at Euro 2020: The humble Chelsea midfielder is ‘the most exciting young player his country have produced in a generation’
- 19-year-old Billy Gilmour is eager to make a big impact for Scotland at Euro 2020
- Malky Mackay says that Gilmour is Scotland’s best prospect for a generation
- Midfielder could face several of his Chelsea team-mates at the tournament
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
For most of us, the end of our teenage years pass by with experiences we would much rather forget, including erupting spots, hormones, puppy love and regrettable fashion choices.
Not for Billy Gilmour. The Chelsea midfielder, nicknamed the Scottish Iniesta, turns 20 on Friday. In the past few weeks, he has been named in Scotland’s squad for the European Championship, has won the Champions League and made his international debut. And when it comes to fashion, he used to be a Burberry model.
It was on May 19 when Gilmour’s phone pinged with a message from an unknown number. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected,’ it read. Gilmour, unsure, phoned his agent to confirm that, yes, he had just been selected in the Scotland squad for the Euros. Only then did he phone his parents.
Billy Gilmour, who recently made his Scotland debut, could be key for his country this summer
Ten days later and Gilmour was a Champions League winner, an unused substitute as Chelsea beat Manchester City. He ended the night with a winner’s medal and pictures of him lifting the trophy. It looked almost as big as him.
He also made his Scotland debut, coming off the bench for the last 10 minutes of their warm-up game against Holland. Scotland open their first major tournament since Gilmour was born against the Czech Republic a week on Monday.
Those who have been at the heart of Gilmour’s development know he will be ready to shine.
Gilmour received a Champions League winners’ medal with Chelsea and is an superb prospect
‘I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that he is the most exciting young player Scotland have produced in a generation,’ says Malky Mackay, the former Watford and Cardiff boss who oversaw Gilmour’s development as performance director at the Scottish FA.
‘I have managed top players, played against them. I’m always conscious of building players up, I get that. But for those who know him, he is the real deal.’
It was Mackay and his coaches who picked Gilmour, then aged 16, to go to the Toulon Tournament, an Under-21 competition. By the end, he had scored against South Korea, captained the team in the third-place play-off and was named Best Breakthrough Player.
Gilmour grew up in Ardrossan, a town on the North Ayrshire coast. His father, Billy Snr, was a prominent junior footballer, the Scottish equivalent of non-League. Gilmour attended Grange Academy in Kilmarnock, a Scottish FA performance school, and joined the Rangers Academy at the age of eight.
At 5ft 6in, what Gilmour lacks in years and stature, he has always made up for in heart. He chose to learn Mandarin at school instead of the usual French or Spanish. And he has even told his more experienced team-mates he is coming for them at the Euros.
With England and Croatia in Scotland’s group, Gilmour could come top against Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic.
The midfielder could face Chelsea team-mates including Ben Chilwell (L) and Mason Mount (centre) when Scotland play England
‘I’ve had a couple of comments with the England players and then Croatia with Kovacic,’ says Gilmour. ‘So I’ve just been telling them that if I play I’m going to be right on you, you’re not getting any time.’
Rangers academy director Craig Mulholland remembers the time they put Gilmour, aged 14, into a senior reserve game against Dundee.
‘He was playing against guys in their 30s,’ says Mulholland. ‘They saw this young, skinny boy. We cringed in the stands wondering if we had done the right thing. He walked on to the pitch as though he believed he should be there. He handled himself no problem.’
Malky Mackay, who worked at the Scottish FA, says Gilmour is the country’s best prospect for a generation
Gilmour also got sent off in another reserve game against Hibs for a challenge on an older player. Mulholland laughs: ‘We just loved his fire and passion.’
It was against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup last season that Harry Maguire tried to impose himself on Gilmour, grabbing him by the throat. ‘He was saying I’m a wee guy,’ says Gilmour. ‘I won’t let that happen again.’
Both Mackay and Mulholland talk of Gilmour’s humility, like turning up to sign his first contract at Chelsea in a shirt and tie. Or having pictures of his loved ones on his shin pads.
Mackay draws comparisons with former Spurs player Christian Eriksen and added: ‘The minute he started to have proper thighs and calves, you started to see how he could get around the pitch. Height or size doesn’t matter then. He ticked every box.’
And he continues to do so. The next will be in a few days when Scotland embark on their first major tournament in a generation with their most exciting talent of this one helping to carry their hopes.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article