Frank Lampard was accused of slightly overdoing the whole youth revolution thing when he gave Billy Gilmour his senior debut for Chelsea, bringing on the 18-year-old midfielder with the match hanging in the balance against Sheffield United in late August. Those criticisms were not helped by Chelsea conceding a late goal in the 2-2 draw, one which Gilmour had nothing to do with, but something that has unfortunately become a trend this season, right alongside trusting the kids.
But Gilmour’s next appearance, a start against Grimsby Town in the League Cup, made it quite clear that he not only very much earned those minutes, but that he’s one to watch for the future.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to watch him too much. His last senior appearance, his fourth, was almost three months ago, and he had missed some time for the U23s as well with a recent illness. But on Saturday he was back in the matchday squad for our FA Cup fourth round match against Hull City, and even got the play the last quarter of our eventual 2-1 victory — again, having nothing to do with an unfortunate goal that the team conceded during his time on the pitch.
In fact, Gilmour was turning heads once again, including his manager’s, who rated him the best on the pitch during those 22+ minutes.
“I thought Billy Gilmour was the best player on the pitch for the period of time he was on the pitch. He came in, he passed it, he moved it, he played the simple pass through the lines, he had little bits of contact. I trust him to come on and do the job.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
For Gilmour himself, it was business as usual, just another day at the talent factory. Football is an easy game after all: see the ball, be the ball, own the ball.
“He just told me to go on, get my foot on the ball, play my passing and play my own game, and to go and enjoy it, as he always tells me. So I went out there and got on the ball and tried to calm things down and get it down on the deck, but it was a good game.”
Gilmour’s biggest highlight ironically did not involve keeping the ball on the deck, but as he waltzed through and around several midfielders trying to high-press Chelsea, we could little more than drop our jaws in amazement at his precocious confidence and over-abundance of skill.
Of course, it’s far too easy to get carried away in cases like this, but Gilmour’s five professional appearances leave little reason to doubt his credentials as a tremendous prospect who could become a fantastic midfielder with the proper nurturing and development.
What may be next is unclear — at least one loan surely should be expected — but the future sure is bright.
“I’ve been training hard and working away and that was a good opportunity for me, and hopefully I have done well.
“I knew I was in the U23s at the start of the season, and I was hoping to be involved in a few first team games and I have been in training, and involved in a few games, so it has been really good.
“I just take what I can get. I’ve just come back from an illness and I’ve been getting my fitness back, but it’s good.”