AT a time when there are so few notable objects of promise on the horizon, Billy Gilmour is causing quite a stir.

That the 18-year-old has made an impression at Chelsea is notable for more than the obvious reason. Aside from the fact that Frank Lampard is in charge of a side which has had considerable riches at its disposal since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, there is also some thought to be given to the sheer volume of players that head to Stamford Bridge to follow the bright lights of the first team.

Chelsea have one of the busiest academies in the English top flight, hence the reason there are players of the ilk of Charly Musonda with considerable reputations but without any first-team football behind them. At 23, Musonda is still out on the loan circuit as he tries to forge a career in the game. 


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When Gilmour left Rangers for Chelsea back in 2017, there would have been many who fully expected him to fall between the chunky cracks at the London club. Instead, his progress has been exceptional to the extent that training with a celebrated first team has become a fairly regular occurrence.

There have been appearances in the senior team as well as public praise from Lampard. An extensive piece this week on the player shone a light on an appetite for success that has been undiluted by the early exposure he has had so far.

All of which creates a stampede as we crane our neck for The Next Big Thing. It tells a story of just where we are as a national team that we are desperate for the sight of a player capable of mixing it at elite level and such excitement is understandable.

But putting an 18-year-old into an environment where the pressure to perform and make the difference when he has barely had the chance to understand the game at first-team level is premature.

When the likes of Andy Robertson are coming off of social media such is the abuse on the back of an international appearance, it would be wrong to make Gilmour the immediate focal point of a team that is toiling in every department.

If this were a Scotland team that was winning and high on confidence it would be far easier to ease him into the surrounds of the dressing room. But the fragility within the national team is such that it cannot be anything other than difficult for seasoned players to go into let alone kids who are making their first steps in the game. 

Such is Gilmour’s age that he has never even seen Scotland represented at a major tournament. His best bet of ending that is for Scotland to qualify for next summer’s Euros through the back door. Despite another ignominious campaign, Scotland can still qualify for their first major tournament since 1998 via the Nations League play-offs which kick off in March.


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Should they do the unthinkable and make it through then it might be the time to reflect on the likes of Gilmour and the benefit of bringing him into the squad. Crucially, though, the timing has to be right. The likes of Darren Fletcher felt the weight of expectation on his shoulders and it is a considerable strain to bear. 

Of more pressing concern for Clarke is the here and now of tonight’s penultimate qualifier against Cyprus in Nicosia and Tuesday night’s game at Hampden against Kazakhstan. It is doubtful that any kind of Hampden roar will bring down the curtain on what has been another insipid campaign but to at least sustain some of the positives of the performance against San Marino would auger well going forward.

Lawrence Shankland has kept himself in contention with the goals he is banging in for Dundee United. There can be an argument for as long as anyone likes about the difference in standard between the Championship and international football but ultimately this is not a team blessed with attacking riches.

Kazakhstan thumped Scotland 3-0 on the opening game in the group back in March. Finishing off with a decent result at Hampden would at least indicate that there have been some forward steps taken.