How Billy Gilmour Rose From Rangers Wonderkid to Chelsea's Next Big Thing

20 March 2020 02:06

Billy Gilmour is the toast of south west London right now.

The young Scot thrived during games against Liverpool and Everton in March, being thrown into the starting XI as injuries limited the options at Frank Lampard's disposal.

Thanks to his performances so far you can expect Gilmour to remain around the first team squad in the coming years, even when more established stars return from their respective injuries.

But how did he wind up as Chelsea's next big thing? Don't worry, we've got you covered!


Early Years With Rangers

Mark Hill,Billy Gilmour

Gilmour was part of the Scottish Football Association Performance School programme during his school years in Kilmarnock and was associated with Rangers as early as 2008.

At the club's academy he developed quickly and was soon in and around the fringes of the first team, though he never made a professional appearance for the club.

The teenager was given a squad number and twice included in provisional squads for Scottish Cup matches by caretaker boss Graeme Murty.


Becoming a Scotland Youth International

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The youngster made an appearance apiece for Scotland's Under-15s and Under-16s sides between 2015 and 2017, before meatier roles with the Under-17s and Under-19s.

He's now a regular part of the nation's Under-21s, though will likely make the step up to the senior set-up over the next couple of years and could end up anchoring their midfield alongside Manchester United's Scott McTominay for the next decade.

In total, Gilmour has scored six goals across his involvement with five Scotland youth teams.


Move to Chelsea

Billy Gilmour,Conor Gallagher

Though Rangers were keen to keep Gilmour on their books, with former Gers manager Pedro Caixinha claiming he has a 'bright future', Chelsea eventually swooped in to secure his signature in 2017.

Some outlets claimed the deal was worth £500,000 with further add-ons dependent on his progress.


He became officially contracted to the Blues following his 16th birthday and joined their Under-18s squad, making his debut against Arsenal and scoring against the Gunners. Gilmour would net in each of his first three appearances.


Change of Chelsea Manager Opens the Door

Billy Gilmour

A massive change in approach was expected from Chelsea when Frank Lampard was named as their new manager, given the transfer ban and litany of young stars coming through.

Gilmour was given his chance in pre-season last summer and made a big impression during the 1-1 draw with Bohemians. He also featured against St Patrick's Athletic.

While Gilmour was perhaps a little too inexperienced to be chucked in at the deep end at Stamford Bridge straight away in the same way Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount were, the Scot was included in the matchday squad for the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool in August - though was an unused substitute.


First Appearances & Starts for First Team

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Gilmour made his professional debut back in August as a late substitute in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. 

Lampard would come in for some criticism for bringing the youngster on with the Blues hanging on to a lead they would eventually relinquish, though the former England international defended his decision, quipping via ​Sky Sports: "People can say what they want but I wasn't trying to be clever at 2-1, I was trying to see the game out."

While his talent was evident, as appearances in cup competitions against Grimsby and Manchester United can attest too, it wasn't until he starred against ​Liverpool in the FA Cup in early March that heads really started to turn.

The 18-year-old dominated proceedings in midfield, looking exceptionally comfortable on the ball against established Reds first team players like Fabinho and Adam Lallana.

“If he’s small in stature he’s huge in personality, and he’s also huge in talent,” Lampard would say after the 2-0 victory, and Gilmour was rewarded with another start five games later, this time against ​Everton in the Premier League.

Billy Gilmour

This was more of a procession for the Blues, with the visitors producing a very tame performance in a 4-0 win for Lampard's side, but Gilmour's talent was again on full display.

His switches of play with his impressive passing range were easy on the eye, while he often only needed one look before making the decision to pass or dribble. More often than not, he made the right call.

Gilmour may only be 5'6, but Chelsea certainly didn't miss either Jorginho or N'Golo Kante during the games he played. Instead, the back four - which has been leaky at times during the 2019/20 season - was protected and the attacking stars were given quick ball in transition to do damage up front.


What Next?

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Injuries have played a part in Gilmour's ascent to ​Chelsea's first team. When ​Ka​nte is fit, it would be safe to assume he will come back into the side. The same can be said of Jorginho, who has been praised a fair amount during the current campaign. The return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek could also push him further down the pecking order.

But there's no reason why Gilmour can't steal some of Ross Barkley's substitute minutes. Lampard will certainly want a more assuring presence when looking to the bench, and Gilmour can provide that instead of his more erratic English rival.


90min Can Take Some Credit, Of Course

Back in October, when Gilmour was a few months away from his big break, he chatted to 90min about being on the fringes of the first team. You can read more on that ​here, as well as his ​thoughts on playing with his mates in the first team.


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Source: 90min