Upon Billy Gilmour’s arrival, I was excited.
In my eyes, we were getting a player who’d been in and around Chelsea’s a Champions League-winning, who has worked under two coaches I felt were perfect for a player like him: Frank Lampard – one of the best central midfielders in recent history – and Thomas Tuchel – one of the best coaches in world football and someone who’d worked with Daniel Farke at Borussia Dortmund.
Being Scottish myself, I’d watched him closely in The Tartan Army’s Euro 2020 campaign, where he was outstanding and won Star of The Match in the 0-0 draw with England.
As a spectator, it seemed like a win-win. Chelsea’s young talent was getting Premier League experience, and we’d be getting one of the most highly-rated ‘wonder kids’ in world football.
But it didn’t go to plan, and here, in my view, are some reasons why:
In the 2020-21 season, the Canaries bagged Spurs youngster, Oliver Skipp on loan. After a slowish start, he took the Championship by storm and was one of City’s key players, as we won the league.
Many called for his return ahead of our Premier League campaign, but Tottenham manager, Nuno Espírito Santo, was keen to keep him in the capital. I feel, in a sense, that this set the bar unreasonably high for Gilmour, upon his arrival.
Regardless of the Scot’s abilities, it was bound to be a tough season for City, and comparing him to one of the best performers in a promotion-winning squad was always likely to end in disappointment.
Ollie was also more unknown than Billy. He’d made a handful of first-team appearances, but that was it. Gilmour, on the other hand, was dubbed the best thing since sliced bread by Scotland and Chelsea fans, in doing so heaping the pressure on him more than his predecessor.
But there is something I want to delve into more…
As referred to above, Billy arrived with a much larger reputation than Oliver Skipp but it’s worth reminding ourselves that upon arrival, Gilmour was genuinely considered one of the wonder kids in the Premier League.
Not only did it increase the pressure on him, but I believe it oversold him to Norwich fans. I genuinely thought, wrongly, that we were getting a player good enough for Chelsea’s first-team, largely down to the praise he’d received from fans and pundits alike over the previous year
These weren’t just from Chelsea fans though – Scotland too was going mad for him.
Billy received his first call up just ahead of Euro 2020, making his debut against The Netherlands, although his first start wouldn’t come until the second game of the tournament for Scotland – a massive game against England.
Many players would crumble under that pressure, but Gilmour seemed to thrive on it. He won Star of The Match and dominated the game, increasing his popularity among the Scotland faithful. Unfortunately, he tested positive for COVID-19 after the match, ruling him out of the last group game against Croatia.
Still, this tournament allowed him to impress on a larger scale, attracting interest from many clubs interested in getting him in on loan. One of those was, obviously, Norwich City.
Now I’d like to talk about whether it was the right move, from the club’s perspective.
Need to Survive
City fans came into this season with relative optimism, despite our last Premier League campaign.
In the 2020-21 season, we’d bounced straight back up under Daniel Farke, playing more defensively solid football but still having the firepower to comfortably win games in the promotion race. We all knew that the Premier League was a different beast though, and that’s why I was surprised this transfer was given the go-ahead.
At City, there is little room for error when it comes to transfers. As a self-funded club, it’s imperative that all deals are fully evaluated. Obviously, there’s some leeway in this with loan players but given you’re only allowed two Premier League loans into the club, you don’t want to waste them.
I don’t think Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke were naïve enough to believe Norwich wouldn’t be on the back foot for the majority of games. Yet, to bring in a player who’d never really experienced that pressure, seemed poorly judged.
Any player can tell you the difference between being allowed time on the ball and being pressed, and for me, that’s one of the main reasons why Billy hasn’t been the player we anticipated.
He hasn’t been afforded that time on the ball, and it’s removed so many elements of his game, making City poorer in possession at times.
This season, Gilmour’s made 21 league appearances, and in those games, City have won seven points. In the 13 league games that Billy hasn’t played, we’ve won 14 points. Surely that’s no coincidence.
It was stated before the season that Webber and Farke were looking to sign more physical players, after seeing the team lack in that area in the 2019-20 season. That’s why this deal is so confusing.
Billy is a primarily technical player and one that this season, sadly, hasn’t made an impact.
I do want to put on record that I think Gilmour will have a fantastic career, at Chelsea or elsewhere but, unfortunately, a relegation battle with Norwich City was the wrong move for him, and the wrong move for the club.
Think you had summed up very well , cannot doubt Billy is a talent, not experienced enough for a relegation battle He will go and have a good career
He has been overhyped by the media. I thought Hanley was Scotland’s best player v England, but Hanley doesn’t play for Chelsea. I remember one of the commentators saying that Gilmour was struggling a bit in the first half. Still a very talented player, he was played in the wrong position by Farke and then left out of the team. Smith did exactly the same. This season we’ve turned a lot of talented players into duds. Tzolis looked brilliant when he arrived, as did Norman,Kabak had been good enough to play for Liverpool,what happened to Todd? What good have our fantastic training facilities done?
Jamie Lauder says
A really interesting point Gil. I hadn’t really considered the sheer number of players that have declined this season. You could argue Gibson and Aarons are among them as well.
Gibs9n has never been a Premiership defender his reputation was built on championship football at Middlesbrough.
He had one season in the Premiership with his home town club and had Jonathan Woodgate as his partner with a couple of other older heads in defense and they carried him that season.
Burnley came calling and a hefty £15m+ was paid for him not sure how long it took Dyce to recognise how lacking he was as a Premiership CB but it went down hill fast and they lost £6m+ on him in less than a couple of seasons.
He again proved he is a good championship defender but Burnley made sure that there was a must buy clause in the deal to get him off their book’s.
As for Aarons he was bound to have a poor season at sometime it happens just when we needed him most.
Amazing how much poorer so many players have appeared to be since we unveiled “Soccer-bot”.
Are we still trail-blazers for this bit of innovation? If so, I cannot see them selling too many in the UK!!
Totally agree with your thoughts on this one Jamie but it begs the question why did Webber and Farke stop looking to sign two or three proven players and signed a bunch of unproven lightweights instead?
Jamie Lauder says
I think the lack of Premier League experience has really cost us this season, but on paper the signings seemed capable of doing the job at the start of the season. I, for one, was excited to see the likes of Kabak, Tzolis and Gilmour in the EPL, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out.
Have spent many years working overseas I have met supporters from most UK clubs and keep in touch with many.
A couple of Chelsea supporters told me the Gilmour needs top class experienced players around him to bring the best out of him and that it was a big mistake for city to have loaned him and suggested that Gallagher that went ro CP was a much better player for city.
One actually said that Gilmour will end up back in Scotland having achieved nothings more that being a talented player that never reached his potential only time will tell.
Another on Gibson is while at Burnley and in the dog house they arranged for him to train at Middlesbrough where his Uncle the owner was interested in getting him back Warnock who was managing them told the owner he would walk out if he was signed as he didn’t trust him to defend.
City have had a strange recruitment plan many players with a poor injury record sign on the cheap hoping for the club to turn that around and get the benefit of a go9d deal but signing Normann who needed hip surgery and Kabak who hadn’t recovered from a serious injury while on loan at Loserpool was shear madness.
Wasting time on players that aren’t interested in joining your club means you are missing out on potentially ones that are willing to join.
Was city right in dumping Farke not sure but it was a knee jerk reaction so that Webber kept his job for me, would DF have got any more points than we have now we will never know but the football would have been more enjoyable that’s for shore.
Jamie Lauder says
You make some really intriguing points Alex.
I think SW tried to sign players that *could* be EPL level, without truly thinking of the consequence if it didn’t work out that way.
As for the DF debate, I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t have sacked him. Maybe a change was necessary, but I completely agree that we’re in no better state now, and the football is woeful. It might just be sentimentality for me, as a younger NCFC fan, but under Farke we had a true vision and way of doing things – all of which has been lost. I bet he’s in Germany somewhere with his 4 year contract payout sipping tequila, watching Cantwell being frozen out of Bournemouth and Webber being put under the cosh at every turn.
Jason M says
I honestly don’t know whether he will go on to have a great career or whether his peak was last summer. It really could go either way – Harry Kane was nothing special on loan here and developed into a Tottenham great, but then you look at (to name three) Marcus Edwards, Patrick Roberts and Ignasi Miquel, and it’s a very different story. There are many more besides those who have come and gone too.
A really negative part of the Gilmour loan has been the barrage we’ve had to take from papers, pundits and fans about how horrendously he’s been treated, plus incorrect information reported about how he’s been Man of the Match, how badly the team has performed without him, etc. My sister and her partner are Chelsea fans, and I can’t convince them that he hasn’t played well. It’s all our fault apparently!
Jamie Lauder says
I agree that the media barrage has been completely undeserved, but I’d argue a lot of City’s loans in recent years have went on to have good careers.
Obviously Harry Kane, but Marcus Edwards also is playing in the Champions League and was a big part of the Sporting Lisbon team that came 2nd in the Portuguese Premier League. Patrick Roberts is in the form of his life under Alex Neil at Sunderland, but the less said about Miquel the better..
Glad you enjoyed the article!
Jason M says
Must admit that Marcus Edwards had slipped off my radar but noticed Roberts has certainly had a resurgence under Neil (given that I live in the North East, I’ve been watching our ex-manager’s progress with interest).
One thing’s for sure – if Gilmour goes on to have a great career, we will never hear the end of it!
Tim Ball says
I think Billy would have been better served playing as a no 10 in 4-2-3-1 formation.
In-between the 3.
Strangely he rarely played in that position under Farke or Smith.
I too was excited by his signing and have to admit we all got it wrong.
I was always wary of the amount of youngsters that we brought in right at the start.
What Billy is definitely not is a holding midfielder. Perhaps that’s where the comparison with Ollie Skipp comes in, but that’s totally unfair on Gilmour as it’s not his position.
That experiment was a disaster however.
But I actually feel sorry for him, he is not playing in his preferred position in a god awful team.
He has a lot to prove he is as good as the Chelsea fans think he is.
I remember one young lad who came here on loan and did not impress ( though my mate Marty said he had a very good first touch) and then got injured early into the loan is one Harry Kane.
And he has done reasonably well !!!
Jamie Lauder says
As you say, Harry Kane is a prime example of how his career can go. I also agree that he’d have been perfect in the 10. He’d have had lots of space and time between the lines and I think the creative spark we’ve been missing for the Inside Forwards and Teemu Pukki.
Perhaps if we had been playing san Marino andMoldova everyweek he might have looked great lightweight at best 👍