On June 18th, Billy Gilmour must have felt as if he were on top of the world: Steve Clark had just chosen the Euro 2020 match at Wembley against arch rival England as the occasion for the young Scot to receive his full international debut. Gilmour repaid his manager’s confidence with a man-of-the-match performance that helped the underdog Scots split the scoreless spoils with the Three Lions. “Scotland have found a playmaker to build around for the next decade,” former Scotland captain Graeme Souness wrote in The Times.
Afterwards Gilmour said “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.”
Indeed, 2021 has been quite a pivotal year for Gilmour. Prior to stealing headlines with Scotland in the Euros, Gilmour won the Champions League with Chelsea. And now the 20-year-old has signed for Norwich City on a season-long loan deal that should see him shift roles from squad player at Stamford Bridge to central figure at Carrow Road.
“I think it helped that in the past we have shown that young players with potential are in good hands here at Norwich City,” said manager Daniel Farke, who guided the club back into the Premier League by winning the Championship last season. Farke added: “We are delighted to bring Billy in because we’ve lost some players in that area. We’re looking to improve our options, particularly in the centre of the park, and for that we’re happy to bring Billy in.”
Gilmour came up through the academy ranks with Scotland’s Rangers and began to train with the first team at the tender age of 15. The youngster was handed a squad number and was included in the provincial team sheet twice for the Scottish Cup. And although manager Pedro Caixinha saw Gilmour’s potential for a ‘bright future’ and tried to convince him to stay at the club, on Gilmour’s 16th birthday Rangers announced that they had reached an agreement with Chelsea over his transfer, and the youngster moved to Stamford Bridge.
After rising through the ranks at Chelsea, it was Frank Lampard who gave the Scot his first senior debut in a preseason game against Bohemians in 2019, and his first competitive debut came against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. He would go on to make his Premier League debut against Sheffield United before making his first start, where he earned the man-of-the-match award against Everton.
Style of Play
On the Chelsea website Gilmour is described as a “technical individual with good game intelligence and awareness who creates plenty of goals and chances for his team-mates.” At just 5ft 7in (1.7m), Gilmour has had to rely on quick thinking and agility on the ball to achieve success for club and country, his ability to keep hold of the ball in tight areas being one of his greatest strengths. His tenacity off the ball is also important. Gilmour is perfectly happy to track back or press, and with experience and cultivation there is room for his defensive skills to be improved even further.
His technical abilities on the ball often draw comparisons to Croatia’s Luka Modric, with Roy Keane calling the Scotsman “world class” and Frank Lampard stating that he reminds him of Manchester United’s legendary Paul Scholes.
“Paul Scholes is obviously one of the greatest midfield players I’ve played against in the Premier League,” said Lampard. “He would always pick the right pass; he had incredible range. If you did try and jump from midfield and get to him and get close to him he’d just play it around the corner because he knew you were coming. Billy has shown early signs of that kind of ability.
“I’m not comparing him to Scholesy, no way at all, but in terms of those basics that you mentioned, then Billy certainly has them and that’s a great platform to build hopefully a fantastic career.”
How Will Gilmour Fit In At Norwich?
The Scottish international would have closed his Norwich deal earlier had he not been in 10-day isolation after testing positive for COVID following the England-Scotland game at the Euros, but the former Rangers player is now all set to perform at Carrow Road.
His loan spell to Carrow Road should give him enough opportunity to make a name for himself that he can then compete for a place in Thomas Tuchel’s lineup at Stamford Bridge a year from now. According to Athletic, Tuchel and the club chose Norwich due to Farke’s ‘double-six’ system, which pairs two midfielders in the center of the park who can either drift wide to fill in for overlapping wingers, or drive up the pitch to initiate and support the attack.
On Friday, Gilmour played the opening 45 minutes of the friendly against King’s Lynn Town and, unsurprisingly given the opposition, he looked at ease in the Norwich engine room. Farke played a 3-4-3 with wingbacks flanking Gilmour and Lukas Rupp. The Scot was impressive with his diligent and visionary passing ability, and Farke’s men won 3-1 against the fifth-tier side in East Anglia. With Oliver Skipp’s loan from Spurs now over and Emiliano Buendia now plying his trade at Villa Park, the path looks pretty clear for Gilmour to stake his claim in the center of Farke’s midfield.
Billy Gilmour is priced at £4.5m in FPL, which makes him one of the cheapest probable starters in midfield, so it’s no surprise that he is the second most-selected midfielder in FPL, with an ownership of over 8% at the time of this writing.
We need to keep in mind that over the past two seasons he has never scored a goal for Chelsea. But much of that is down to limited game time and injuries. Given regular minutes, his performances in the Euros suggest that attacking returns are coming. On top of that, having the likes of Todd Cantwell (£5.5m), Milot Rashica (£5.5m), and Teamu Pukki (£6.0m) around him will only make the former Ranger an even more productive player.
The Canaries’ return to the Premier League will begin with a visit from Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season. Games against Man City, Leicester, and Arsenal will follow. That’s a bit of a rude welcome back to the top flight, but for £4.5M many FPL managers will be content to put Gilmour on bench duty until his fixtures take a more favorable turn.
In Fantrax, he’s listed at a budget-friendly $4.00, a price that will probably collapse even further after the Canaries run their nightmare gauntlet of opening fixtures. Once that rough stretch of matches is behind him and he can be purchased from the discount bin, he could prove to be a very useful buy-and-hold enabler.
With Gilmour striving to emulate players such as Luka Modric, Cesc Fabregas, and Andres Iniesta, patient fantasy managers could be handsomely rewarded if his talent can blossom to reach the heights of his idols.
Did you enjoy this profile of Norwich’s newest Canary? If so, please also see our features on:
- Ryan Bertrand and Boubakary Soumare
- Romain Perraud
- Francisco Trincao
- Patson Daka
- Ibrahima Konate
- Junior Firpo
What do you know of Gilmour? Did you watch him play during the Euros? Do you think you might pick him as an enabler sooner rather than later? Please share in the comments below.