How the ‘fantastic’ Billy Gilmour sparked Scotland’s revival

Video Caption, How has Gilmour made a difference starting against Switzerland? – analysis

  • Author, George O’Neill
  • Role, BBC Sport Scotland

Billy Gilmour only had to chase German shadows during part of Scotland’s Euro 2024 mauling in Munich on Friday.

The introduction of the Brighton midfielder, just before the home team’s fourth goal, came too late to create any chances.

But his influence was felt even more keenly on Wednesday as Steve Clarke’s side injected their campaign with a touch of positivity by claiming a point against Switzerland.

Suddenly, with the 23-year-old in the XI, Scotland could hold the ball better, dictate the tempo and manage a match they might even have won.

“There are so few players in world football who can control games at the highest level,” former Scotland winger Pat Nevin said on the Football Daily podcast.

“He wasn’t in control the whole game, but the best of our play came through Billy.”

This was no clearer than in Scotland’s goal in Cologne.

After a Swiss corner was cleared, Gilmour calmly took the ball on his chest and pushed the ball into the path of Andy Robertson to the left.

The Scotland captain charged forward and found Callum McGregor, who in turn set aside Scott McTominay to fire a deflected effort into the back of the net.

Many would have played it safe and cleared the ball in Gilmour’s position, but not the young Ayrshireman.

“He’s extra special, and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t start the first game,” Nevin added. “He showed tonight that he is a fantastic player.

“We are very lucky to have him, and I hope he plays in every game we get (in the tournament).”

Parallels with the last euros as Gilmour makes an impact

So far there are similarities with Scotland’s last Euros campaign.

Gilmour did not make the squad for the opening defeat to the Czech Republic at Hampden, and was then outstanding in the goalless draw against England at Wembley.

A bout of Covid then allowed the then Chelsea midfielder to bounce back from the defeat to Croatia, but there is no global pandemic to deny him this time.

But if Scotland are to get the win they need against Hungary on Sunday to give themselves a chance of progress, they need to produce a similar performance.

The way Clarke’s side played against the Swiss was much closer to Scotland beating Spain and shocking Norway in the qualifiers.

“They showed more fight, a lot more commitment,” former Manchester United and West Ham manager David Moyes said on BBC One.

“That’s the real Scotland showing up,” Nevin added. “That’s the way we played under Steve Clarke when we tried to reach these finals.

“There was a bad feeling recently that Scotland might not show up at a major tournament, but those players have stepped up.”

Video Caption, Highlights: Scotland draws with Switzerland to keep Euro hopes alive

Gilmour was central to this. He regained possession more than any other Scotland player and kept things moving in midfield, picking up the ball in tight spaces and exuding a sense of calm.

“He gives you an option on the ball,” former Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam told Football Daily.

“His first thought is the next pass and getting the ball back.

“He is a very good player for Scotland and in games like this, when you need players to get on the ball, he feels very comfortable.”

Gilmour himself was not carried away by the improved display.

He knows they have to back Hungary, but there was confidence they can make history by reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

“We gave it everything,” said the 23-year-old. “We knew we had to come back after the last performance and that puts us in a good place.

“We are a good team. We know our strengths. Tonight it was more like a performance in Scotland. Going after the ball, passionate – everything was there.”

What did you think of Scotland’s performance? Are you hoping for a last 16 spot? Let us know here.

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