Former Chelsea academy chief Jody Morris has revealed that watching a 15-year-old Billy Gilmour get himself sent off in a Rangers youth game was enough to convince him to approve a deal to sign the Scot.
Chelsea had to fend off competition from most of the game’s elite to land Gilmour back in 2017, and the young midfielder has since blossomed into a bona-fide wonderkid with some outstanding performances for both club and country.
Most of Gilmour’s minutes in a Chelsea shirt came under Frank Lampard and then assistant Morris, who told The Times of the moment he first laid eyes on the young midfielder.
“Whenever Chelsea were serious about young players who’d cost money they wanted me there in the flesh,” he said. “Billy played well, nothing special. But there were bits of bullying going on of a 15-year-old by older pros who weren’t in the Hibs first team.
“He waited for an opportunity to smash them back — and did. I’d seen loads of stuff with him looking technically great. Lovely passing, a bright footballer who understood the game. That reminded me a bit of myself. When you’re little, people try and take liberties. So I liked the personality to stand up to it.
“It wasn’t a red card challenge for me. But I remember thinking: I like that side of it. As he walked off, I said to our chief youth scout Jim Fraser: Let’s go, that’s us seen all we need. He’ll do for me.”
Morris, who oversaw Gilmour’s development in the youth setup before getting the chance to work with him at senior level, admitted that the youngster has already proven he belongs at the top of the game.
“The minute he walked through the door you couldn’t ask for anyone better to work on,” he recalled. “We knew we had a huge talent on our hands. Sometimes they’re the hardest ones to coach because they almost feel they’ve made it. But he wanted to improve so much. When I look back, if anything, when Frank and I were in charge he should’ve played more.
“We’d walk off the training pitch and Frank would say: ‘Billy, best player again’. Whether it was technical, tactical, going in against experienced lads, Frank got more and more impressed. When we started giving him minutes, we could see it was where he belonged.”
He added: “The minute you get put among Chelsea’s first team, they’re sizing you up and thinking: ‘OK, let’s see what you’re made of’. Chelsea players are already technically good enough. But have you the personality to do it when surrounded by world class players?
“To demand the ball, to show how good you are. Mason Mount, Reece James and Billy. These are the types who walk in and say: ‘I’m here to stay and I want you to see how good I am’. Billy wanted to stand out straight away — and did. The more he was with them, the more they loved him.” 90mins