As Michael Jackson once said, Billy G may not be our son, but it sure feels like he is. I may be paraphrasing.
The 19-year-old midfielder broke onto the scene last season, and translated an impressive preseason camp (just a few days past his 18th birthday) into a fringe role in the first-team before truly exploding into the public consciousness with a run in the team just prior to the first COVID-19 lockdown in March. With practically all other midfielders injured, the teenager grabbed his opportunity with both hands and both feet, and produced dominant performances in back-to-back wins against Merseyside opposition, first against Liverpool in the FA Cup (2-0) then against Everton in the league (4-0).
Project Restart did not treat him too kindly however, as he returned from the break slightly out of form, then suffered a knee injury in his second start, in the 3-2 win against Crystal Palace. He played almost the entire match, but afterwards was diagnosed with a meniscus tear and the decision was made to correct it surgically — and take the four-month hit.
Fortunately, Gilmour’s recovery has gone swimmingly and right on schedule, and after two rehab starts with the U23s, he made his first-team return with a 5-minute cameo in last week’s 4-0 win over Sevilla. Now, he’s set to start in the dead rubber against Krasnodar today, and he couldn’t be happier — and nor could we.
“It’s been a long time out with my first major injury. It was disappointing to get it but now I’m back and feeling strong and I can’t wait to get going again. Just being back on the pitch, working hard in training and being back with the lads, it really helps you a lot to come back into training with this game coming up. It’s helped me a lot and I can’t wait.”
A lot has changed in those four months, including the make-up of the first-team squad, with several massive signings made by the club. But there should be space in midfield for Billy, either in a two- or a three-man setup, with Lampard already hinting at his preference to keep the youngster around, just as last year, rather than send him out on loan.
For Gilmour himself, the focus is just on today of course.
“There’s been a lot of new signings, good players, good additions to the squad and you can see the competition for places in the team is a good thing and that’s why we’re playing so well. Chelsea are a massive team and everyone here knows the standards you need to go and win and that’s why we’ve been doing so well in the league.
“You can see they’re good players that have come in and in an attacking sense we’ve been doing really well with the goals we’ve been scoring, but I’m looking forward to coming back into the team and playing again.
“The competition for places in this team, it’s very hard to get a game, but with the opportunity I’ve got tomorrow, I’ve got to take that and show why I should be in the team. We’ve got a big game tomorrow, we’re going to go there with the right mentality to win the game first.”
Gilmour already came across as a very mature 18-year-old last year, and now, a year older, a year bolder, and a year wiser, that’s only more apparent. Getting a major injury is a massive physical and mental test for any player, and he also combined that with the massive real-world step of moving out and starting to live on his own. With the proper support structures in place, he’ll undoubtedly be just as successful at that as he’s already been in his young career.
“When I was injured it was tough. It was during lockdown as well, where you can’t do much, so I was stuck in the house watching a lot of football, coming into the training ground doing my work. But then I started getting out of the crutches, started seeing positive steps. I was doing a lot more in the gym and getting to go outside and do a bit of jogging and passing the ball. So as soon as I went back on the pitch I was fine, my head was fine mentally.
“I’ve grown up. During lockdown as well, I moved into my own place, so it was a bit difficult, but with the injury I took good care of myself. I have to do all the bills and the cooking, it’s going well. My mum’s been helping me. She’s not down any more, but it was good when she was here because I could just watch!”
-Billy Gilmour; source: Chelsea FC
We’ll be rooting for our young and precocious son, Billy G tonight!