I remember the first time I saw Billy Gilmour play. He was only about 15 at the time but he was playing an age group up for Rangers under-20s against Aberdeen at Forthbank.

I didn’t know who he was beforehand as I was just there observing but I thought he was incredible that night, even though he was a lot younger than most of the players on the field.

Even at that age you could see he had something special about him. I was so impressed, not just with his quality on the ball but his movement off the ball as well.

That’s how I like to study players. Quite often in a game they don’t get a lot of time or touches on the ball so it’s often about what they’re doing the rest of the time.

And his movement off the ball was terrific. From a young age he was showing that level of football intelligence so it’s no surprise he’s where he’s at now.

He’s achieved so much in the subsequent years, culminating in his breakthrough into the first-team squad at Chelsea.

He’s not always had a lot of minutes on the pitch but he’s in an environment where he’s playing and training with some of the best players in the world.

And that can only enhance his football attributes no end.


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People might have been surprised to see him – and also Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull – included in Steve Clarke’s squad for the Euros given they’ve not been capped yet.

But I wrote in the column recently that I hoped Steve would use the extra three places available with squad sizes being extended to 26 to give some of the younger ones a chance so I’m delighted he has done that.

The response from the fans has been favourable too as people always want to see young talent getting a chance if they’re good enough as these three clearly are.

We were all excited when we qualified last year and seeing the squad named with players of that calibre in it just gives everyone an extra buzz again.

For Gilmour and Patterson to have both come through the Performance Schools route is also a vindication of that system as well.

Both of them are still just 19 and Turnbull is only 21, even though it feels like he’s been around for a lot longer given how much football he has already played in his career.

The hope is that Scotland will go on to qualify regularly for major tournaments in which case this will be great experience for them.

But I think there is a chance some if not all of them might end up making their mark this summer.

I know from experience that once you enter that tournament environment things can change quickly and the best-laid plans can often go out the window.

A player might get injured and all of a sudden you’re calling on the services of others that, as a manager, you maybe hadn’t planned to use.

And should that scenario arise, I’ve no doubt that youthful trio won’t let their country down.

Sometimes as a manager you often have an idea about a player but it’s only once you see them close up in training that you realise just what they are capable of.


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Steve will no doubt have felt a sense of relief to have named his squad and got that out of the way as it’s something that weighs heavily on a manager’s mind until it’s announced.

It’s a strong group and one that gives you confidence as the tournament creeps ever closer.

From a personal point of view, I’d have maybe taken an extra striker and one fewer defender but Steve and his staff will have agonised over this for weeks and months so you have to respect that decision.

It will be tough for some of those who haven’t made it like Leigh Griffiths, Liam Palmer and Lawrence Shankland who would have been hoping for a call.

There was added hype around this one as it’s been so long since the men’s team have qualified and everyone would have wanted to have been a part of it, especially with two games at Hampden and the big one away to England at Wembley.

That’s always a tough conversation for any manager to have. Those players will be devastated at having missed out and it might take some time for them to get over it.

And then you have the scenario as a manager when, in the next campaign, you might have to go back and ask them to play for you again. I don’t envy Steve on that one.

For the lucky ones who have been selected, there will be a sense of relief and the excitement will start to build the closer the tournament gets.


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If they’ve not finished the season already the players will look to come through their remaining club games unscathed and then they can turn their attention to the friendlies against the Netherlands and Luxembourg to see if they can push their way into the manager’s plans for that opener against the Czechs on June 14.

It’s going to be a competitive environment in training and that can only help make sure everyone is at their sharpest going into such an important tournament.