On Saturday, it will be exactly a year since Billy Gilmour ran the show for Scotland against England at Wembley.
The talented midfielder put on a wonderful performance in the goalless Euro 2020 tie, and was voted Man of the Match.
Things have not worked out quite so brilliantly for him since.
Four days later, Billy was ruled out of the vital game against Croatia at Hampden when he had to isolate due to Covid.
He was missed. We lost the match 3-1 and our tournament ended.
Our World Cup campaign ended with the same scoreline against Ukraine.
The team didn’t hit the heights required and our dreams of reaching Qatar later this year were over.
Steve Clarke and a number of players were heavily criticised. Some comments were valid and on point. Some were just to create headlines.
Billy had his fair share of criticism after being subbed during the second-half.
Sure, it wasn’t his best game for his country. But his performance didn’t merit some of the negative reaction, which was way over the top.
Steve left Billy on the bench against Armenia, and we produced a decent performance to win the Nations League tie 2-0.
He came off the bench yesterday, but could do little to prevent a sore result.
Now, it’s all about what Billy does in the future. There is no doubt he has the ability and, just as importantly, the correct attitude. So I expect his career to continue on an upward trajectory.
What happens to him at club level this summer is likely to have an impact on how he performs for Scotland.
He broke into the Chelsea first-team two years ago, and I remember his Man-of-the-Match performance against Liverpool. He was superb.
His name was on everyone’s lips up and down the country but Thomas Tuchel decided to loan him out to Norwich City for the 2021-22 season.
It didn’t really go to plan.
Billy had injuries and also struggled to hold down a regular starting place when Daniel Farke was the Canaries’ manager.
It got better for him in the second half of the campaign when Dean Smith took over and Billy started just about every week after missing around a month with an ankle injury.
But Norwich were relegated.
I’m not privy to any conversations that may or may not have taken place between Tuchel and Billy as to what will happen next season.
But I’m sure he will be back at Stamford Bridge for pre-season and involved in the preparation games for the new campaign. It’s important he plays well during that three or four-week period so he can either cement a place in the first-team squad or have good loan options.
He needs to have a manager who believes in him and who will give him the game time he wants – and deserves – every single week.
Perhaps Tuchel will look at the progress of Conor Gallagher, and hold that up as an example to Billy.
Conor has had four loan moves while on Chelsea’s books but it was in the past two years that he really came to the fore.
In 2020-21, he was bright and bubbly at West Brom. Then last season at Crystal Palace he really lit the place up. He was brilliant for Patrick Vieira’s team as they finished a creditable 12th in the Premier League.
Conor is 22 and now plays for England. He has been very patient. His progress has been steady and he now looks the part of a Chelsea first-team player.
Billy turned 21 yesterday and I wish all the very best to him. This is an important season for him and it’s crucial in his development.
Dealing with adversity is part and parcel of being a footballer. It’s how you respond to it that’s important.
You need to show resilience and inner strength. You need to really show your character. You also need to have good people around you, on and off the park.
I’m sure Billy will be fine, and I have every confidence in him.
I want him to have a good season at club level – wherever that may be – and that will see him absolutely ready for Scotland.
He is an important part of Steve Clarke’s plans and if we are to be successful as a nation at football then we are going to need Billy on top of his game.
At 21, he is still a young man with years and years ahead of him.
He can help us get to the Euros in 2024. I’ve no doubt about that because – unlike the aforementioned critics – I believe in him.
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