Having stolen the show in Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Liverpool… should 18-year-old Billy Gilmour be fast-tracked into Scotland’s squad? Sportsmail reporters have their say
- Billy Gilmour stood out in front of Scotland boss Steve Clarke on Tuesday night
- Clarke was at Stamford Bridge to see Gilmour in the FA Cup against Liverpool
- Sportsmail reporters debate whether he should go straight into Scotland’s team
Billy Gilmour’s man of the match performance for Chelsea in their FA Cup win over Liverpool has seen calls grow louder to insert him straight into the next Scotland line-up.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke was at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night to watch the teenager boss the midfield battle against seasoned professionals such as Fabinho and Adam Lallana.
With that in mind, Sportsmail reporters debate whether it would be the right decision to put Gilmour straight in from the start for Scotland.
There are growing calls for 18-year-old Billy Gilmour to be fast-tracked into the Scotland team
John Fleck. Jack Harper. Scott McTominay. Scottish football is littered with the names of kids built up as the potential saviours of a failing national team.
The desperation for a superstar up to the job of leading Scotland’s national team back to a major finals is such that kids ill-equipped for the pressure are chewed up and spat out.
They explode on to the scene like a firework, fizz, dip and crash into a ditch. Rarely, if ever, is the ludicrous hype and expectation placed on their shoulders by a media and Tartan Army starved of world class footballers justified by reality.
Scott McTominay has previously been viewed as a potential saviour going forward for Scotland
That’s why the performance of Billy Gilmour against a strong Liverpool side should come with a note of caution.
To watch the Ayrshire teenager take the ball in tight, confined spaces and use it productively with confidence and intelligence was joyous. It felt like a throwback to old times.
But Andrew Robertson is a Champions League winner. And even he hasn’t managed to transform Scotland’s fortunes. McTominay is a regular starter at Old Trafford – and it hasn’t made much odds.
By all means put Gilmour in to the starting line-up against Israel. But let’s be clear that he’s not the new Messiah – just a very talented boy.
All the evidence suggests Billy Gilmour could handle it against Israel. And then some.
The smile across his face as he controlled midfield operations against Liverpool on Tuesday evening didn’t suggest a young man who has any issues in shouldering expectation.
Retaining possession under pressure can too often be a flaw within Scotland’s make-up. Gilmour’s supreme composure on the ball could be one way to bring more reassurance. He plays with a maturity well beyond his 18 years.
The teenager controlled the midfield against Liverpool but competition is tough with Scotland
The question for Steve Clarke, however, will be about the balance of a midfield that is the most well-stocked department of his squad.
Even if John McGinn doesn’t make it, Clarke still has Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, John Fleck, Ryan Jack, Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong in contention.
Gilmour does offer something a little different, though. A place in the squad should be granted to allow this prodigious talent an opportunity to convince Clarke he is ready to step in.
No. But that has absolutely nothing to do with his precocious ability or the fact that he is still only 18 years old.
To shoehorn the Chelsea midfielder into the side, Steve Clarke would most likely have to omit Callum McGregor or Ryan Christie.
Both of the Celtic men are vastly more experienced at European and international level and have earned their places against Israel. Unfortunately for Gilmour, Scotland’s midfield is the one area in which we are well served.
You’d have him in the squad in a heartbeat, though, hopefully remaining there when the Euros come around. Come the summer? Who knows?
Callum McGregor would have to make way for Gilmour and he has more experience to rely on
His time will assuredly come sooner rather than later and when it does Scotland managers of the future will have a truly supreme technician to build their team around.
It’s a truly thrilling prospect. But amid the understandable excitement his display against Liverpool on Tuesday generated, we should not forget of the enormity of the task that awaits against Israel and, God willing, Norway or Serbia.
As far as Billy the Kid is concerned, Clarke should resist the temptation to now throw him into the firing line. This is an occasion for the sure shots.
As recently as November, Billy Gilmour looked a long way off full international recognition.
‘He’s probably not as close as people would think,’ said national team boss Steve Clarke after overlooking the Chelsea teenager for matches against Russia and San Marino.
‘Listen, Billy’s an exceptional young talent, and we have to give the young players time to grow and develop.’
His performance against Liverpool has seen calls to go into Scotland’s first team grow louder
But that stance should now change after Clarke watched in person as Gilmour’s breakout man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup against Liverpool on Tuesday night saw the 18-year-old suggest he is the future of Scottish football.
Hailing his ‘incredible performance,’ in a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said it was a ‘comfortable choice’ to select Gilmour for such a big match.
Whether it’s from the start or off the bench, Clarke should now have the same mindset as Lampard and fast track this generational talent into Scotland’s huge Euro 2020 play-off against Israel.
Liverpool’s Fabinho has established himself as the best holding midfielder in the Premier League over the past 18 months. Yet, there were times when he was chasing shadows trying to get near Gilmour on Tuesday night.
There was one instance, in particular, when the Brazilian was the victim of some sublime samba soccer as Gilmour basically sent him for a pie with a brilliant backheel, turn and nutmeg – all in one move.
If Gilmour can run the show with such poise and composure against the best team in Europe right now, spare me the notion that he would somehow struggle against Israel.
Gilmour showed age is just a number as he managed to boss Liverpool’s midfield on Tuesday
Football has evolved. Age and physical stature (let’s not even get into Gordon Strachan’s genetics theory) are irrelevant. What counts more than anything is raw talent and it’s clear that Gilmour has it in bucketloads.
Over the past decade, we’ve had so many similar, stuffy holding midfielders. Gilmour offers a real point of difference with his ability to take the ball in tight spaces and pull the strings from a deep position.
Wouldn’t it be poetic if this young thruster, not even born the last time Scotland reached a major finals, came in at the 11th hour of this campaign and led us back to the promised land?
The time has arrived for Billy Gilmour to be rewarded with a place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland team.
If we needed any more evidence, the 18-year-old’s performance for Chelsea against Liverpool on Tuesday proved this exceptional talent can cope at the highest level.
As well as his composure on the ball, awareness of when to tackle and play the right pass, and shielding the back four, trust forms a huge part of any footballer’s game.
Gilmour offers something different and deserves to be rewarded by selection for Scotland
It speaks volumes for Gilmour that Blues boss Frank Lampard – not to mention a fair few experienced heads in the Chelsea team – have belief in what the young Scot can do. At no point did he look fazed or daunted.
Clarke, of course, doesn’t lack options in midfield, Scotland’s most competitive area. But Gilmour deserves his chance. The country needs a lift ahead of the most crucial game in a generation.
Team-mates trust him. Lampard trusts him. It’s time a nation backed Gilmour to help end the pain for Scotland on the international stage.
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