Billy Gilmour lets Scotland dare to dream after excellent display

Billy the kid lets Scotland dare to dream: Steve Clarke gave the people what they wanted by starting their own Phil Foden in stalemate with England – and Gilmour delivered the goods

  • Billy Gilmour produced a superb performance as Scotland drew with England
  • 20-year-old has been compared to Phil Foden but outperformed him on Friday 
  • Andy Robertson says the Chelsea midfielder ‘can have as many caps as he wants’
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

It was said, on the eve of Euro 2020, that Billy Gilmour could be Scotland’s very own Phil Foden at this tournament.

On the evidence of Friday night at Wembley, Gareth Southgate will be hoping Foden can be England’s answer to Gilmour.

If you had woken in a daze on Saturday morning — plenty did north of the border — and been told that a 5ft 7in, ball-playing midfielder in his early 20s had bossed the meeting between the Auld Enemy, you would be forgiven for assuming that it was Foden who had emerged as the star.

Billy Gilmour was superb in his first start for Scotland as they held England to a goalless draw

Gilmour was said to be Scotland’s Phil Foden before Euro 2020 but outshone him at Wembley

Not so. Rather, it was Chelsea’s Gilmour, making his first international start, who won the acclaim of admirers from Jose Mourinho to Andy Murray, the latter labelling his compatriot his ‘idol’ following the 0-0 draw that means Scotland will almost certainly make the second round if they beat Croatia on Tuesday.

Murray’s feelings reflect the fondness of the nation for the unassuming 20-year-old from Ayrshire, whose first thought after full time was to video call his nan.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke gave the people what they wanted when, after their opening defeat by Czech Republic, he made the call to include Gilmour from the off at Wembley.

Ninety minutes later and Mourinho was leading the tributes.

‘The kid Gilmour in midfield, he made the difference,’ he said on talkSPORT. ‘He was fantastic. He was always moving, he was always showing himself. He wanted the ball. He was turning under pressure, he linked the game much, much better.’

Mourinho was right, Gilmour was much better than anyone in a white jersey, including Foden and his more experienced and celebrated club-mate, Mason Mount.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke was vindicated in his decision to start Gilmour against England

And there is an interesting parallel with England. For Clarke’s decision to start Gilmour was in keeping with the wishes and demands of critics and supporters alike, as was the recall for striker Che Adams.

That is not to say Clarke simply tuned in and adhered to outside noise. He absolutely deserves credit for a bold pick that was only possible because of his naming of the uncapped Gilmour in his squad in the first place.

But whatever factors influenced his selection, Clarke got it right. If that included him recognising the buzz that Gilmour’s name on the team sheet would generate, then kudos to him. A more stubborn manager would perhaps ignore the potential for such impact.

Southgate, by comparison, kept Jack Grealish on the bench until the 63rd minute, while Jadon Sancho is yet to muddy his studs. The England boss would perhaps do well to follow Clarke’s lead and use those who can induce excitement before it is too late. He has witnessed — to England’s cost — what a galvanising effect it can have. And boy, are they galvanised and excited in Scotland right now.

Clarke says Gilmour is the ‘future of Scottish football’. But he is also the here and now. On Tuesday night, at Hampden Park, he goes up against Luka Modric, 14 years his senior.

The Croatia captain has played in and won four Champions League finals, is a World Cup runner-up and Ballon d’Or winner. Gilmour still plays on a trampoline with his young cousins when he returns to Scotland and has food parcels sent to London by his mum, including his favourite square sausage.

But that is all part of the charm and allure of this young man.

Andy Robertson believes the hugely talented Gilmour ‘can have as many caps as he wants’ 

‘Nothing fazes him,’ says skipper Andy Robertson. ‘That’s why I believe he can have as many caps as he wants.’

Few of those are likely to be as important as his fourth on Tuesday.

Scotland will need Gilmour to be everything he was at Wembley if they are to make history and progress from a group for the first time at a major tournament. Appropriately, they showed Braveheart on television in Scotland following Friday’s game, and courage is the one characteristic that competes with technical excellence as the strongest weapon in Gilmour’s armoury.

Combine the two and — as he demonstrated against England — what you have is a player who constantly shows for the ball and seldom loses it.

He won’t be bullied, either. Manchester United’s Harry Maguire tried that when grabbing him by the throat in a game two seasons ago.

‘He was saying I’m a wee guy,’ said Gilmour. ‘I won’t let that happen again.’

Maguire was right, Gilmour is a wee guy. But with him now in their side, Scotland have every reason to dream big.

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