You only get to make a first impression once, they say, and those first impressions are often the most critical. Billy Gilmour must subscribe to those notions with every ounce of his being.
The recently turned 20-year-old Chelsea midfielder has won the Man of the Match award in his full debuts (i.e. first starts) for Chelsea in the FA Cup (vs. Liverpool), the Premier League (vs. Everton), and the Champions League (vs. Krasnodar), and now, as of last night, for Scotland (vs. England) as well. The only one missing from the collection is the League Cup: Chelsea won 7-1 against Grimsby Town on his debut in that competition (which was also his first ever start and second ever appearance for Chelsea), with Reece James announcing his arrival instead.
Any way you slice it, that’s a remarkable feat for any player, and especially for such a young player playing in such a crucial position.
Unless I'm mistaken, Billy Gilmour was named man of the match after his FA Cup debut, Premier League debut, first Champions League start and now his first Scotland start.— Adam Newson (@AdamNewson) June 18, 2021
Gilmour himself has of course taken all that in stride, just as he’s taken on every challenge in his career thus far. Representing his country and earning such plaudits on the grand stage is just the latest step forward.
“I was ready, I trained with the squad, all the boys have helped me settle in really well. To play against England in my first game, I’m so proud and to come here and do really well was even better.”
“My mum and dad only knew I was starting, I text them on the bus to the game and that was it. I had mum, dad and little brother, uncle and my dad’s mates [at Wembley]. My mate as well, he came down. I got them tickets. It was a good moment.”
-Billy Gilmour; source: Evening Standard
Gilmour’s of course already thinking of Scotland’s next game, their final group game, which is now a must-win against Croatia to reach the knockout rounds.
Scotland boss and Chelsea legend Steve Clarke does have the bigger picture in mind as well, with Gilmour hopefully a big part of Scotland not just in this game, but going forward for a long time as well.
“I don’t think there is any risk when you have somebody of Billy Gilmour’s talent. When you put him on the pitch you expect him to do what he did. He held the ball for us and allowed us to play through the midfield. I didn’t think it was a risk for the balance of the rest of the team. We were ready to support Billy in his role and I think we did that.
“Everyone has praised Billy but we need to look at the team performance. There are a lot of good people around and that supported Billy. It was great to see him get through 70 odd minutes on his first start.
“I have said for the last year that Billy will be a big part of the future of Scotland. We will try to take care of him and make sure he is a big player in the future.”
-Steve Clarke; source: Glasgow Times
It’s easy to get carried away in such situations. Gilmour is still very young, very inexperienced. Too much too soon — minutes, pressures, etc. — could be detrimental to his development. Then again, he’s yet to wilt under such demands. Consistency is what separates the great from the merely good, but consistency can only be developed through consistent playing time. As ever, there are no easy or straightforward answers.
Whatever the future may hold for Gilmour, he’s certainly one to hold onto.