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England “needed” him. He was “basically N’Golo Kante”. And he will “play in every Scotland game for the next 10 years”. It’s safe to say Billy Gilmour made an impact at Wembley.
In his first Scotland start, the Chelsea youngster was the “best player on the pitch” according to Graeme Souness, a man who knows a thing or two about being a midfielder.
Gilmour, who turned 20 this month, might not have even made the squad had Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean not been injured, but he delivered a stunning performance in his third cap as Scotland drew with England in their second game of Euro 2020.
His composure on the ball, range of passing and tenacity left Scotland fans applauding him off the pitch after 76 minutes and perhaps pondering why cameos against the Netherlands and Luxembourg were his only international appearances to date.
“My god… right up there,” Scotland captain Andy Robertson said when asked about Gilmour’s performance. “Nothing fazes him. He can have as many caps as he wants for Scotland.”
Manager Steve Clarke was also impressed, if not shocked at the Ayrshireman’s talent.
“We knew before we put him in he can play, it’s just getting the right moment. Tonight was his big moment and he took it and no-one was surprised by it, certainly not in our camp,” he said.
‘Maestro’ Gilmour shines amid stars
Gilmour has made just 22 first-team appearances for Chelsea, having joined from Rangers in 2017 aged 16 without having played a senior game.
However, he has nearly always impressed in his limited game time for the Champions League winners, with previous manager Frank Lampard particularly vocal about his qualities on the ball and fearlessness.
“When he walked off you realised he will play in every single game that Scotland play probably for the next 10 years,” former Scotland winger Pat Nevin said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “He is that good. He is that controlled, and Scotland are that much better when he is playing.”
Despite being substituted 14 minutes from the end, Gilmour completed more successful passes than any other Scotland player (40), with a 91% success rate, misplacing just four.
He also won the ball back eight times, more than any player on the pitch. It was a complete midfield performance, and one that Souness said England could have done with.
“They need a Billy Gilmour,” he said on ITV. “They need a maestro. The best player on the pitch. Never gives the ball away which is fabulous for a midfielder.”
And as if that accolade wasn’t enough, the wee man was also the highest rated player among the BBC Sport audience with an average score of 7.46.
‘The Ardrossan Ardilles’ – what they said
And the man himself?
“I had an idea I was starting in training but I was only told in the last meeting before coming to the game and I texted my mum and dad on the bus. I’m so proud to start and to come here and do really well is even better.
“It was a great performance by the team and everyone did what they needed to. We were already pumped up. It was a massive game for us and we knew what we had to do. It gives us confidence to go into the Croatia game.”