Footballers’ personal lives should always be considered, but it’s vital for Billy Gilmour that he chooses head over heart as he weighs up whether to join Norwich or Rangers for the 2021/22 season.
There’s no denying what Rangers can offer a young Scottish midfielder desperate for game time. Billy Gilmour grew up 30 miles from Ibrox, and it’s undeniable that the champions north of the border are a bigger club than Norwich City. A much bigger club.
Gilmour came through the Gers academy setup and only left in 2017 because of a huge bid from a Champions League winning club in Chelsea; the hub for strong young talent, evidenced by their five consecutive FA Youth Cups between 2014 and 2018. Gilmour was instrumental in the final one of those. His move south made was with at least a degree of reluctance and there is unfinished business for the 20-year-old at Ibrox.
So the question becomes how desperate the Chelsea man is to finish that business, and whether he must do it now. Given the trajectory expected of his career, it seems likely that the chance to return to Rangers will present itself at some point in Gilmour’s future, whether that’s as a revival move after struggling at Stamford Bridge or as a convenient transition into retirement at the end of a long and storied 15 years there.
The chances of Steven Gerrard being at Rangers when opportunity next knocks are, of course, slim, and that could work against the Canaries. The Liverpool legend is an ambitious man and after his hugely successful first three years in the job Premier League suitors will come calling sooner rather than later. This could be vital in Gilmour’s decision, given the Blues midfielder is a huge admirer of Gerrard and will be tempted by the opportunity to work with him.
Combine with this the fact that a move back to Scotland would be a move back into the vicinity of the family Gilmour is very close to and things start to stack up against Norwich City.
Then again, the Canaries are almost unmatched in their capacity as a launchpad for young footballers looking to further their careers. James Maddison, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey, Oliver Skipp, etcetera, etcetera. The list of players City have improved and elevated speaks for itself, and all of the above did their best yellow and green work under the current regime.
- Because Daniel Farke is an excellent coach and almost peerless in his knowledge around how to improve players.
- Because Stuart Webber has enlisted the help of the best analytical and sports science staff available to a club of Norwich’s size.
- Because the Lotus Training Centre has been transformed into a hub of development, a facility truly worth being proud of, and that fact may well be key in Gilmour’s decision.
When discussing his move to South-West London, Gilmour’s parents said that “a top-class training establishment” was what sold them on the idea that a move to Chelsea was the best option for their son. They’re a family that takes development seriously and, although the draw of a huge club is undeniable, anyone that’s watched the Scot play will know that he’s not a man fazed by the bright lights, by the attention that comes with playing at a stadium like Ibrox.
In fact, Gilmour comes across more as a player that would fit perfectly with Farke’s trademark style on the pitch. According to City Head of Recruitment Kieran Scott the perfect Farke player is “someone who’s confident, calm on the ball, will take the ball in tight areas.”
If he’d been asked to describe Gilmour, the answer would’ve been very similar, as confirmed by Kenny McLean, who told the Daily Record that “Billy would fit into our style of play, the way we try to build from the back. That suits him perfectly.”
There’s also the Chelsea element, one which has been underplayed on mass throughout the Rangers vs. Norwich debate. The Blues want their man at Carrow Road, and surely theirs is the king of the various priorities.
Farke’s style has evolved from the one he was employed to copy at Borussia Dortmund, the one created by a certain Thomas Tuchel. The Germans share both an unrelenting desire for possession and, crucially, the use of a ‘double pivot’ in their teams, hence Tuchel’s feeling that NR1 is the best place for Gilmour to play if he’s to progress into a starting role at Chelsea.
Not only is the pride of Ardrossan being pushed towards Norfolk, there will surely be a bitter taste left if he directly conflicts with his coach’s wishes.
Not to ignore the suggestions of Graeme Souness, who went on record to suggest that Gilmour should stay with his parent club, and that the key in becoming a world-class player is to play with them in training, not against them every week in front of 27,000 fans in the strongest league on the planet. One wonders if Souness’ opinion has softened since his beloved Gers entered the frame.
Anyone can understand the dilemma facing Gilmour, it’s head vs. heart at a key crossroads moment in his career, but there’s little room for sentiment in football, and for once that may fall in Norwich City’s favour.