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'We all came in saying the same thing: "F**king hell, who was that kid?" It was Billy Gilmour'

Dublin will always have a special place in the heart of Chelsea’s newest star because it was against Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic that the teenager broke into Frank Lampard’s squad for this season.

Gilmour in action against St Pat's (left) and Bohs last July.
Gilmour in action against St Pat's (left) and Bohs last July.

DUBLIN WILL ALWAYS have a special place in the heart of Billy Gilmour.

It was here, first at Dalymount Park and then at Richmond Park, that Chelsea’s rising star got his first taste of senior action over the course of three days last July.

Before he introduced himself to the masses with a midfield masterclass against Liverpool in the FA Cup, a more intimate audience of admirers were won over on both sides of the River Liffey.

Gilmour’s debut came just a month after turning 18, a 45-minute performance against Bohemians illustrating to Frank Lampard that he was perfectly comfortable in such an environment.

As fate would have hit, his direct opponent that sunny afternoon was a fellow Scottish underage international, 21-year-old Scott Allardice having joined from Dundee United in 2019.

st-patricks-v-chelsea-pre-season-friendly-richmond-park-stadium Gilmour on the ball at Richmond Park last summer. Source: PA

Only the Chelsea hardcore in attendance would have been aware of the lengths Chelsea went to in order to prise Gilmour away from Rangers a couple of years previously.

A reported up front fee of £500,000 secured the Glaswegian’s services, with Barcelona, Liverpool and both Manchester sides among a slew of top clubs monitoring the situation.

“I had heard all the negative stuff about him leaving and the arguments about it,” Allardice, now with Waterford, tells The42.

People were saying it wasn’t the right thing for him to do but I think he is showing now that it’s about having the right mentality to go along with the ability that will help you make it.”

Gilmour’s class was evident for all to see at Dalymount – even if it was the introduction of 14-year-old Evan Ferguson for Bohs which grabbed all the post-match headlines.

“He was quiet on the pitch,” Allardice says of Gilmour. “He wasn’t a big talker but he was so sharp and technical, it was hard to keep up. It was just the same as how he played against Liverpool, he took the ball in tight places and never gave it away.

“He just looked so comfortable and everything was easy for him.”

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Gilmour’s focus was intense for the pre-season friendly but he wasn’t completely on auto pilot.

chelsea-v-liverpool-fa-cup-fifth-round-stamford-bridge Gilmour skips away from Takumi Minamino last night. Source: Mike Egerton

“He heard my accent at one point and asked me if I was Scottish too… but that didn’t stop him from running the show,” Allardice laughs.

“He had been made out to be the next big thing by everyone in Scotland and you could see why. He was on a different level and even beside the Chelsea boys he looked like he belonged there.”

Three days later and Lampard again sprung Gilmour from the bench for the second half, this time against St Patrick’s Athletic in Inchicore. 

He was unreal,” Saints defender-cum-midfielder Lee Desmond says instantly. “I swear to God, I’m not just saying it because of the game against Liverpool but I remember after the game all the lads were in the dressing room saying the same thing: ‘Fucking hell, who was that kid for them in midfield?’

“We were going through the programme to get his name and it was Billy Gilmour. I said it to all my mates after the game that this was the player to watch out for this season at Chelsea.

“I actually thought he would have been more involved in the Premier League but Lampard is obviously protecting him. He was a different class and I would say he was already technically better than a lot of the first-team lads at that point.”

Desmond, like Gilmour, watched on from the subs bench for the first half before both were introduced after the break. 

I couldn’t believe how quiet they all were. I suppose it was only pre-season for them but I was looking at David Luiz and [Fikayo] Tomori and they didn’t say a word. It was strange because you are always told from a young age to talk, talk, talk, even if some of it is bollox,” Desmond laughs.

“But they barely said a word and Gilmour was the same. He didn’t need to, really. He was everywhere getting the ball and always knew what to do with the ball. He looks like a special player.”

How good he becomes is now up to him.

But it’s a journey that began in Dublin.

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