Life under Frank Lampard for Chelsea’s youngsters was meant to be a period for them to prosper…not for Billy Gilmour.
It would be amiss to overlook the rise to prominence of the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James during Lampard’s tenure, but it’s fair to say the ‘Frank Lampard is keen to give youth a chance’ rhetoric had something of a blind spot when it comes to the Scotland Under-21 international.
Gilmour was afforded just 225 minutes of Premier League action during Lampard’s 18 months at Chelsea, and while Thomas Tucehl’s arrival at Stamford Bridge represented a fresh start for everyone at the club, no one will have breathed a bigger sigh of relief than the young Scotsman – well, maybe Kepa Arrizabalaga, but the less said there the better.
Still, Gilmour was widely tipped to head out on loan in January, yet after just a few day at the club, it seemed Tuchel had convinced the youngster to remain at Stamford Bridge and fight for his place.
Stay put he did, and after just one appearance as an unused substitute on the Chelsea bench in Tuchel’s opening four games at the club, he was finally handed his golden opportunity against Barnsley in the FA Cup on Thursday night.
While it may look like Gilmour had been spoon-fed a knock over cup tie against lower league opposition, in reality the task ahead of him was far trickier.
The playing surface at Oakwell was horrendous, meaning even the simplest of passes suddenly became a task. Chelsea fielded a stellar side, yet the boggy pitch meant the visitors would need to show character and drive – two qualities which Gilmour displayed in abundance.
Sitting slightly ahead of N’Golo Kante, Gilmour produced a full-blooded display and drove his team further up the field, offering the classy Alex Mowatt no time to settle on the ball whenever he was in possession.
However, while Gilmour’s desire and ability to grit his teeth was undoubtedly the shining light in Chelsea’s midfield, he didn’t lack the touch of class required to secure his side’s passage through to the quarter-final.
The 19-year-old had a huge hand in deciding the victors of the contest, killing the ball in the centre of the pitch before picking his head up and finding the run of James, who in turn picked out Tammy Abraham who was handed the simple task of slotting home the winning goal.
At first glance the pass from Gilmour looked tidy enough if not spectacular, yet when you watch his participation in the goal back it shows a maturity to his game.
Having picked his head up the youngster instantly sees a gaping hole between the two Barnsley centre backs and looks to thread the ball through to Abraham – as 95% of midfielders would when given the chance.
However, Gilmour spots the run of James on the right and stalls his pass before opting to pick out the right back, with Chelsea completely opening the home side up and Abraham ultimately slotting into an empty net.
It may have looked a simple pass, but there’s a vision and an intelligence to Gilmour’s play which can’t be underestimated in someone so young.
For all the internationals in Chelsea’s midfield, they tend to lack a dynamism and an energy at times, yet Gilmour’s display proved he has the ability and the maturity to mix it with the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, and he’ll have given Tuchel an lot to think about before their next outing against Newcastle in the Premier League on Monday night.