“England could still snap you up, couldn’t they?”
“But they could, if they wanted to? That’s happened before with other players?”
“Naw, but I’m Scottish. There’s no chance.”
“So, just to be clear, if Gareth Southgate comes and knocks on your door and tells you he wants you to be the future of English football, you’re going to say..?”
That exchange, right at the end of an interview on the Football Daft podcast, briefly made Billy Gilmour a Scottish football sensation.
It was delivered with the sort of self-assurance and humility that has made him a favourite at Chelsea over the past 18 months.
Since laughing off the idea of playing for anyone other than his country of birth, Gilmour has been called up to the first-team full-time, made his debut, suffered a long-term knee injury, and recovered from that injury to regain a fairly prominent role within the squad.
He appears to have won the faith of new manager Thomas Tuchel, too. While he was left out of the German’s first three matches altogether, he made the squad against Sheffield United, and delivered a commanding 90 minutes against Barnsley in the FA Cup on Thursday night.
The 19-year-old was at it with the sort of all-round midfield performance that his idol, Cesc Fabregas, would have been proud of. When he wasn’t harassing Alex Mowatt into giving the ball away, he was taking charge of the play in midfield and creating the decisive goal by picking out Reece James down the right.
You know who could use a midfielder like that? Oh yeah, Scotland…
Steve Clarke may have an impressive depth of midfield options available to him, but while John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Ryan Jack, Stuart Armstrong and Kenny McLean each have their merits, none are as multi-faceted, or as high in potential, as Gilmour.
His development since leaving Rangers for Stamford Bridge is such that it only makes sense to pick him for March’s World Cup qualifiers. He is performing at a level alien to the vast majority of the current Scotland group, with only Andy Robertson and Scott McTominay playing for teams currently competing in the Champions League.
He may be just 19 and raw him his abilities but he is already at a level where he can hang with the best…look at what he did to Fabinho in the FA Cup last season.
Clarke has been cautious with his selections so far, reluctant to thrust any unnecessary pressure on young players who may not be ready for the international scene.
Gilmour has fallen victim to that more than anyone, overlooked due to his lack of first-team experience, but he is likely to be have cleared 20 Chelsea appearances by the time the clash with Austria rolls around.
Players of his ability and potential don’t come around for Scotland all too often, and if there is any chance he is going to be ready for the Euros this summer, it is pivotal he is introduced to the squad as soon as possible – even if it is just to get to know his team-mates and acclimatise himself to the senior set-up.
In a hugely promising career, a senior international debut represents Gilmour’s next big step.
You can’t wait forever to give him it – especially when his Chelsea performances are making it pretty clear he is going to be the future of the Scotland national team.