There’s been highs and lows but Chelsea’s Scottish sensation Billy Gilmour is ready to put 2020 behind him and make next year one to remember for club and country.
That’s the opinion of Gilmour’s former coach, Dundee United academy chief, Andy Goldie.
Goldie helped mould the 19-year-old into the talented midfielder we know today while working at the SFA’s Performance School at Grange Academy in Kilmarnock.
The teenager, with Rangers before moving to London in 2017, earned a place in Frank Lampard’s first-team squad earlier in the year before the coronavirus and a knee injury hampered his progress.
However, Goldie believes the Scotland U/21 star is ready re-establish himself with the Premier League giants after making his Champions League debut last week and starting against Krasnodar last night.
Goldie also believes ‘special talent’ Gilmour has what it take to make an impact on the European and international stage.
“It’s been a rollercoaster year for him,” the Tangerines academy director said.
“He grabbed the limelight early on in the year, making his debut and having a big impact against some top-level players.
“He’s managed to attract a lot of positive attention which is great for him and nothing fazes him. He’s such a resilient and focused young man.
“Even when he was getting the attention or his injury happened it was all about ‘what do I need to do?’
“He’ll do everything he can to make sure he’s the best he can be – that’s his nature.
“I was delighted to see him back in the U/23s and getting some game time there and, ultimately, earn his Champions League debut last week.
“It was only 5-10 minutes but it gives him a taste of that now and he’ll continue to fight hard to get more of that like we saw against Krasnodar.
“Billy’s a Champions League player, there’s no doubt about that.
“Whether he becomes a regular in the next six months or year, there needs to be an opportunity there he’ll have to grab.
“He’s a special talent and special kid as well. He’ll leave absolutely nothing to chance and do everything within his power to make sure he is a regular and is successful at Champions League, Premier League and international level.”
Gilmour has been linked with a loan move to Serie A juggernauts Napoli in January as he seeks regular first-team football and a spot in boss Steve Clarke’s Scotland plans.
Goldie, however, believes the Scots kid’s primary focus will be remaining at Chelsea and fighting for his place, not the squad for Euro 2020.
He added: “That will be for Frank Lampard and Jody Morris to decide. I know the wee man fully trusts them in how they’ll handle his development and the opportunities he’ll get.
“If the time is right and things dictate that he should be going out on loan then he’ll grab it with both hands.
“His standards are always the very highest, however, and he’ll be wanting to break into the first team.
“He won’t be leaving anything to chance and he’ll want to make the impression he did before he had his injury.”
He’ll leave absolutely nothing to chance and do everything within his power to make sure he is a regular and is successful at Champions League, Premier League and international level.”
Andy Goldie on Billy Gilmour.
Goldie continued: “The short term for the wee man is to get back into that Chelsea squad on a regular basis.
“The opportunities he does get, particularly in training where I know he’s impressing every day, he just needs to maintain those standards.
“I’ve got no doubt whatsoever, and I know he’s the same, that he can break back into that squad.
“I know they’re flying high in the Premier League just now but he can do it.
“That will be in his mind, first and foremost, and after that he’ll want to do his best for Scotland U/21.
“If he gets his opportunity from Steve Clarke, which I fully believe he deserves, then he’ll start making his mark on the A squad.”
Gilmour’s attitude should inspire United youngsters
What sets Gilmour apart from his peers, Goldie believes, is his ambition and determination to ‘be one of the best midfielders in the world’.
It is an attitude he likes to use as an example to youngsters in the Terrors academy.
The 35-year-old commented: “He’s ambitious and our young kids are the same at Dundee United. We don’t want to put a ceiling on any of our young players.
“We want them to dream big but they need to back it up.
“Billy’s certainly done that and he made no secret whatsoever that he felt he could be one of the best midfielders in the world.
“He trained for it every single day, whether it was on the pitch, at home or just watching his role models like Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Thiago.
“He backed up what he was saying about himself and he demanded a lot from myself, coaches from Rangers and the likes of James Grady at the performance school.
“Our advice to our young players is ‘we need to see that bit of personality from you’.
“We need to develop that and they need to believe they can get there. It’s happened in the past and can certainly happen in the future again.”
In terms of the academy, 2020 has been a trying year because of Covid-19.
Although, Goldie believes it has also, ultimately, been a successful one as they finish things off with matches against Hibs youth teams this weekend.
He said: “It’s been a challenging period throughout 2020, we’ve had to be so flexible in order to adapt and provide the kids with the best experience possible in the safest environment possible.
“We’ve had regular games every weekend but it’s been a really stressful time.
“The most important thing to achieve this year, when this all happened in March, was to make sure our young players felt supported and safe.
“Football came secondary to their wellbeing and as a consequence of that we’ve, hopefully, got a full quota of happy academy players.
“We’re looking forward to the last games of a very short season against Hibs this weekend and then we’ll have an extended winter break to reflect on what’s actually happened before we go again in 2021.”