Two of young Billy Gilmour’s three starts for Chelsea so far have been against two of the big-name opposition sides in English football – and with that comes a highly valuable steep learning curve.
The 18-year-old was selected by Frank Lampard in the midfield against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup in October and although he acquitted himself well and went off before the deciding goal in what ended up a 2-1 defeat, he learnt a lesson from a confrontation with England defender Harry Maguire.This week, against Liverpool, the outcome was better and Gilmour not only played the full 90 minutes but was named man of the match, and it was lining up alongside some of his senior colleagues that he found beneficial this time.But casting his mind back to the Man United game, it was when Maguire grabbed him by the neck that he remembers really well.‘Basically he was saying I am a wee guy so he was pushing me off and grabbing me by the throat and that is something I have to deal with, and I won’t let that happen again, that is for sure. That was a lesson,’ Gilmour says.‘Obviously he is going try to bully young ones and that is what I need to learn in the game. I have to be stronger and I have been working on that and I can only get stronger. That was a learning curve when he picked me up in the box.’
Four months further on, Gilmour was not certain he would be in the starting 11 the day before the Liverpool game this week when the players worked on team shape, but Frank Lampard told him on match day he would be starting the FA Cup tie against the Premier League leaders.‘I was not nervous, I was more looking forward to it, to go and show what I can do, and it was a really good game, we stuck together and did really well.’He is modest enough to suggest his standout moment of skill from the match when he left Fabinho for dead and sent Olivier Giroud on the attack was not as good as everyone is suggesting, due to the quality of his pass, but by that stage of the game he had done enough for the Stamford Bridge crowd to be singing his name, although he did not notice it at the time.
‘I was zoned out,’ he explains. ‘I had total focus on the game. You can hear the fans but you don’t listen particularly to what they are saying.’And part of that focus involves conversing with his team-mates, something he is not shy about doing even if those around him have many years more experience.‘I am not here to be quiet. I need to tell folk to get into position and it is the same for people telling me, that is how I get better and that is how they get better. I have to communicate and specifically with my position I play in I need to do that.’In the starting line-up against Liverpool he was with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley in midfield initially, and when injuries took their toll he concluded the game with Jorginho alongside him. Kovacic is now an injury doubt for the Premier League game against Everton on Sunday and Jorginho is suspended for the next two games. Is Gilmour ready for more action if called upon?‘Hopefully,’ he says. ‘I have been learning off them [Kovacic and Jorginho in training and watching them in games and to play alongside both of them was brilliant, but hopefully Kova is back and fit for the weekend, and we will see how it goes from there.’