It’s not often that you draw praise from Roy Keane. The Irishman is a man full of disdain, someone who rarely speaks with too much enthusiasm. However, ex-Rangers midfielder Billy Gilmour allowed him to do just that, two and a half years on from leaving Ibrox.
Over a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate, he claimed Gilmour made him stand out. “He looked world-class,” were the words muttered by the former Manchester United man on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday (08/03).
Gilmour looked at home in Chelsea’s midfield against Liverpool in the FA Cup last week, winning two tackles and making two dribbles, but it was against Everton on his first Premier League start that his class shone through.
On Sunday he played 43 forward passes and registered a success rate of 93%.
How Rangers could do with a player like him in the middle of the park, particularly now they sit 13 points off their Old Firm rivals in the race for the SPFL title.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it’s clear to see they’re missing a player of his qualities. A measly fee of £500,000 was paid for Gilmour in 2017 as the midfielder left Scotland at the tender age of 15. The Light Blues couldn’t even bring in a decent price for his services.
Unable to sign professional terms, the Gers were at the mercy of the jaws of one of the biggest clubs in world football. It’s hardly surprising that he left given Chelsea had come calling. Though, despite all of that, Rangers should be ruing from letting him slip through their grasp.
Pedro Caixinha was the man in charge when his exit was sanctioned. The Portuguese even met with the player’s parents in a bid to get him to stay in Glasgow, as did SFA Performance Director Malky Mackay. Ultimately, their efforts in trying to get him to stay didn’t prove fruitless.
Chelsea’s academy hasn’t had too many success stories so at first glance his future would have been best served in Scotland, rather than in West London. Mackay even detailed those very facts. However, he’s now proving their words wrong in impressive fashion.
Of course, there is still a long way to go in his career but he’s already showing signs of becoming a top player at this level. Picking up the Man of the Match award on his very first Premier League start was fine evidence of that.
Unlike some, he has the drive and will to get forward in midfield, something very few at Rangers have. For example, in their 1-0 win over Braga a few weeks ago, Scott Arfield completed just 12 forward passes. Ryan Jack managed only 22 while Steven Davis amassed 27, via WhoScored.
As for their 3-2 win over the same opposition, Davis came out on top in midfield with 30 forward balls (graphic above). It’s clear that with Gilmour in their ranks, they’d be more forward-thinking in possession in the final third.
With Steven Gerrard chopping and changing Rangers’ midfield, Gilmour is a player with the potential to have become ever-present at Ibrox. The very fact he was so positive with the ball at his feet on Sunday is evidence of that.
Speaking about him on Sunday, former footballer Karen Carney said:
“Billy Gilmour recycled everything, played everything really simple – one and two touch. He poured energy into that midfield and played at a level way beyond his 18 years. He’s got it all. I’m really impressed. Do you play him in the Champions League? I certainly would. I wouldn’t have any hesitation.”
It was fine praise for the teenager, someone who now looks to have a bright future in the game. Unfortunately for Rangers, that won’t be with them. His exit is one they will live to regret for years to come.