Arriving as manager in July last year, Chelsea’s Frank Lampard made no secret of the fact that he would place huge emphasis on promoting young talent and helping academy graduates get their chance in the first team.
Just months after his 18th birthday, Scotland U21 international Billy Gilmour made his senior debut for Chelsea against Sheffield United, introduced in the 84th minute, Gilmour displayed glimpses of exactly what he was capable of.
The young midfielder made his first start for the Blues a few weeks later in a 7-1 victory over Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup and has been a permanent member of the first team ever since.
In three of the four games Gilmour has started this season, he has played just in front of the back four, however, his clear talent going forward means fans remain to question whether the Scotsman’s best position is as a defensive midfielder or potentially further forward.
Gilmour was brought down to London in the summer of 2017, after being at Glasgow Rangers since the age of eight.
The Scotsman made the perfect start to his Chelsea career, scoring on his youth team debut for Jody Morris’ U18s side against Arsenal.
Gilmour marked his maiden season in the capital with plenty of silverware, winning the FA Youth Cup, U18 PL Trophy, U18 Southern Division and National Division titles. During this quadruple-winning season, Jody Morris often adopted a 3-4-3 formation which often saw Gilmour line-up alongside Connor Gallagher in central midfield.
Despite often being part of a flat midfield four, Gilmour sometimes had to drop into a more defensive shape as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation which Morris also sometimes used, therefore showing why Frank Lampard has shown faith in the youngster to adopt both of these roles.
A strong debut season with Chelsea also earnt the youngster international recognition as he was called up to the Scotland U21s squad to compete in the Toulon Tournament at just 16.
Gilmour performed well throughout, as he helped Scotland finish in third place, and won the Young Player of the Tournament award. Much like the previous season at Chelsea, Gilmour was tasked with altering between defensive midfield duties and helping going forward.
Following his outstanding debut season, in July 2018, Gilmour was rewarded with his first professional contract at Chelsea and then went on to sign a contract extension a year later which will keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2023.
Earlier this year, Gilmour looked as though he had been able to capitalise on an injury to N’Golo Kante and cemented a place in Lampard’s starting eleven with back to back man of the match performances against Liverpool and Everton. On both occasions, Gilmour lined up as the deepest of a midfield three and showed exceptional passing and tackling capabilities in both games.
Unfortunately for the youngster, the recent break in the season has allowed other players in central midfield such as Kante to recover and be back in the frame for selection.
Despite this, Jamie Redknapp was quick to praise Gilmour for his performances in the games against Liverpool and Everton, in which he played as a holding midfielder but also games where he has been pushed further forward like against Leicester City in the FA Cup.
Redknapp, who is also Frank Lampard’s cousin, spoke on Sky Sports prior to Chelsea’s game at Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
“Incredible impact (from Gilmour) and the FA Cup game against Liverpool, where he was exceptional,” he explained.
“We haven’t seen too many players who burst onto the scene, like he did. He looks comfortable in possession, he’s always got a picture of where he wants to go, he always looks to pass forward - which I really like in midfielders.
“But I have noticed in that period, and when you start as well as he did, you will get identified, and teams will start to close you down.
“He was so pivotal in what Chelsea were doing well. I saw that in the Leicester game, where you could see midfielders starting to close him.
“Watford, as well, when he came on. Chalobah challenged him and outmuscled him - that’s something he’s gonna have to get used to, he’s gonna have to adapt.
“Teams will look at you, when you’re comfortable on the ball, to try not to give him time. They know how important he is to make this Chelsea team tick.”