Before football stopped the big talking point at Chelsea was the emergence of Billy Gilmour, the young Scot who picked up consecutive man of the match awards for his performances in impressive wins over Liverpool and Everton. His boss Frank Lampard has explained what Gilmour did so well in training that meant he simply couldn’t be ignored.
Cast your mind back to 3 March and the visit of the European and soon-to-be English champions in the FA Cup. Gilmour was selected to start in midfield, his third appearance from the off and sixth in total, and produced such a controlled, creative display he was chosen as the televised fifth round tie’s standout performer.
Five days later, against Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton, he was equally impressive in a 4-0 win. That was our final game before coronavirus intervened, and means when play does resume Lampard will no doubt find it hard to leave the 18-year-old out of his starting XI.
‘We’ve had a few of the young come through this year and that’s given me great pleasure,’ said Lampard earlier this week. ‘They’re great to work with, they’re like sponges who want to come in and learn.
‘Billy probably gives me as much pleasure as anyone. When you look at Billy he’s quite slight in terms of his size, he’s young, he’s quiet, he’s polite, but Billy moved over to the first team building a while ago because he had to. He trained at such a level.
‘If you have possession in training or a game or a simple passing drill, you’re talking about attitude and doing the basics right. In the modern day it can get lost a little bit. Can you do the real basics right? Billy does them day in, day out.
‘Some people think I threw him in against Liverpool but he probably deserved to play a little bit earlier in how he was training,’ added Lampard.
‘That was me being a bit conservative with him. Then the minute he got in there, he showed the replication of doing the passing drills right, being the brightest player in training, and he went and did it against Liverpool, the best team in the country.
‘It was a real pleasure to see someone come in the right way, doing the real midfield basics. I don’t want it to sound like he’s not a talented player, but I think sometimes the basics of receiving the ball, turning it around the corner, joining up, and making all the right decisions in a game are not easy. The simple things are actually sometimes the hardest, and Billy has those.
‘He’s set a benchmark, he’s now got to come back after this break and go on and have the career he’s started to show he can have. I am pretty sure he will because of his attitude, his family, his surroundings are really good, and he has the talent.’
As Lampard points out, Gilmour is not the only Chelsea youngster to have impressed in our senior team this season, and according to the boss it is unlikely he will be the last.
‘Tino Anjorin came on against Everton and played in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season. Ian Maatsen played some minutes. I don’t want to leave out too many others because there are some other younger players who have the potential to come through. We know the ones that are there.
‘One of the first things we tried to do at Chelsea when we got the job was bring them in, get them training and get an idea that if you train well enough in the Academy, you’re not forgotten. It will get flagged and you will have the opportunity to come and train with us. There are a few more that have shown themselves when they’ve come and trained with us.
‘We have got quite a lot of numbers who have played with us this season, and even the Masons and the Tammys who have played for their country as well, but they still have so far to go, and it’s a huge plus for the club who are now coming through and showing it. They also have a long way to go but they will be a huge part of how the club moves forward.’