Gilmour's Rise: From 'Oor Billy' to Scotland's Great Hope

Gilmour's Rise: From 'Oor Billy' to Scotland's Great Hope
By: Gordon from statstriker.com

Billy Gilmour's football journey has never been a solo endeavor.

Last Wednesday afternoon, in Frankfurt Airport's Terminal A, a contingent of Tartan Army supporters prepared for the final leg of their journey. Among them was the Gilmour brigade.

A group of fans donned Scotland jerseys with the number 14 on the back, all bearing the same name in tribute to one man.

His parents were there, along with more than a dozen others, marching in support of the player that Scotland fans are hoping will be the savior of the nation’s Euro 2024 campaign.

This support and belief are nothing new for Ardrossan's brightest star, affectionately known as 'Oor Billy'.

Ardrossan beginnings and family ties

It all began with a ball at his feet as soon as he could walk.

His grandad practiced with him, his mother Carrie took him to training, and his father Billy Sr. coached him at his boys' club, Tass Thistle.

"My dad was in the Navy for nine years," Gilmour told BBC Sport. "He played football himself, probably not to the same standard as me, but he says that’s where I get his skills from.

"Everything I did, every day when I woke up it was, ‘I want to go and play football’. To say I’m a professional footballer now, I’m happy.

"My family have been brilliant. Every home game they’re there, away games they come down too, and the same with the national team. They’re my biggest supporters."

Growing up, his mum often lamented the lack of ornaments in the Gilmour house, fearing stray shots or passes. Footage of him as a youngster shows him racing around the garden, wearing shin guards so big he resembled a hockey goalie, reflecting the early spark of his football journey.

Rangers eventually came calling, offering an early opportunity to be involved in first-team matters.

"Of course it’s your dad [who is your inspiration], but football-wise it was Cristiano Ronaldo," he said. "When I got a bit older and I understood what position I was going to play in, it was [Andres] Iniesta.

"I trained at 15 years old with the first team under Mark Warburton and David Weir.

"The kit never fitted me or nothing. I was buzzing, I got my own number. I was 65, it’s come down a lot now."

A leap of faith

The number has decreased, while his value has risen immensely.

In 2017, the teenager made a headline-grabbing move to Chelsea, marking a significant loss for Rangers, who had considered him one of their brightest prospects.

The transfer occurred just after his 16th birthday, and he made his senior debut under Frank Lampard two years later.

"I took that jump," said Gilmour. "I had full confidence in myself to go down and give it my best. I always knew I could go back, but I’d regret it if I didn’t.

"It was definitely a difficult decision. What made it easy was my dad being away for nine years. He said, 'you’re going to feel homesick sometimes and if you are it’s normal, just give me a call.’

"Frank was amazing with me. He gave me the chance at Chelsea to express myself. He gave me a lot of trust."

Regarding the transfer, Lampard told the Scottish FA’s 'Oor Billy' documentary, "There was something about him in terms of his personality and his family’s way, his mum and dad, that it struck home to me. A very normal family.

"They really wanted to support their boy."

Bouncing back and Scotland's hope?

Gilmour made a handful of appearances for Chelsea, steadily growing in stature.

Seeking more game time, he embarked on a loan spell to Norwich City, which proved challenging as the Canaries were relegated from the Premier League.

However, the start of that season saw Gilmour earn his first international cap, and he played a starring role in Scotland's draw at Wembley during the last European Championships just days later.

"It definitely never went to plan," Gilmour said of his time at Norwich.

"When I look back, it’s helped me a lot. Nobody wants hard times in their career; they think it’s just train and play, and you’ll start, start, start. But that’s impossible.

"It was an eye-opener, and I learned a lot more about myself than the football."

Now part of a Brighton team comfortably situated in the upper echelons of the Premier League, 'Oor Billy' looks equally at home in his new surroundings.

Having just turned 23, he is a key player for his club side and may be instrumental in helping his country get their Euro 2024 campaign back on track against Switzerland on Wednesday.

Gilmour started on the bench in Scotland’s 5-1 thrashing by Germany in Munich, and there is already significant clamor among fans and pundits to see if they will get their wish.

"He’s been brilliant with me," Gilmour said of manager Steve Clarke before the tournament. "Of course, I’m from the same area as him; he’s an Ayrshire boy.

"He’s helped me a lot, especially during my time at Norwich when I wasn’t playing. He had that loyalty to pick me and say, ‘Look, you’re not going to play, but you’re part of the squad. Train and work hard and go back to Norwich.’

"When I came into the squad, he made me feel welcome from the start, and I guess he now looks at me as an older player. I’ve been in the squad for a couple of years and am trying to take more responsibility.

"I’m not a kid now."