Former Rangers kid Billy Gilmour ready to put tough loan behind him to play for Scotland, says Celtic ace McGregor


CALLUM McGREGOR believes that the prodigy Billy Gilmour has reached a critical stage in his career.

But the Celtic skipper is confident he will emerge from this fate an even better player – as long as he gets the right support.

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Billy Gilmour prepares to play for Scotland against UkraineCredit: Kenny Ramsay

McGregor has formed a hugely impressive partnership with Chelsea starlet Gilmour in Scottish midfield.

He insists the youngster is ready to go – and ready to face whatever may come in his rapidly developing career after an astonishing start.

Gilmour has just completed a mentally and physically difficult campaign on loan at relegated Norwich City.

As if the desperate Premier League results weren’t hard enough to bear, the former Rangers kid also had to endure brutal barracks from a small part of the Canaries backing.

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The ugly scenes immediately sparked a lot of talk about his pursuit of a January return to parent club Chelsea.

But Gilmour showed his courage by refusing to buckle up and insisted on seeing things at Carrow Road.

He was, of course, backed by the unwavering support of boss Dean Smith and his teammates who condemned the boo boys.

And McGregor is eager for a nation to put a collective arm around Gilmour, who is set to land his 13th Scottish cap in the World Cup play-off against Ukraine on Wednesday.

He said, “Look, he’s a young boy and everyone goes through this.

“You go in, you set the fire, you take a little dip and then you come back.

“I watch Billy every day in training and he’s top notch.

“He’s always confident with the ball, can take it under pressure and can play one or two touches. Everyone has difficult periods in their career.

“Because everyone got Billy so excited at first, it’s inevitable that he’ll have a dip in form at some point.

“It’s normal. It’s natural for young players.

“What we need to do as a nation is help him. Give him the confidence and the tools to go out and play.

“We have to tell him, ‘This is your stage, go enjoy it. We will watch over you.

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“Everyone involved with Scotland needs to look after him because he is a great talent.

“You can’t get to this level without being mentally strong and being able to leave every three days with all these big games.

“The situation in Norwich will help him even more.

“You have to face adversity in your career to learn.

“When everything is going well, it’s great. You think it will never end.

“But then you get a slap in the face and it brings you down to earth.

“It allows you to learn and I’m 100 per cent sure he feels that too.

“He’s come into the group and he’s bright, bubbly and ready to go.”

McGregor can vouch for the value of a loan switch early in a career.

He was just 20 when he joined League One from Notts County on a one-season move – and it turned out to be his decision.

“You can’t get to this level without being mentally strong and being able to leave every three days with all these big games.

He finished as top scorer with 14 goals as County managed to stay on their feet and returned to Celtic ready to play for a new boss in Ronny Deila.

McGregor scored the winner on his Hoops debut – a Champions League qualifier against Reykjavik in Iceland – and the rest is history.

Over the next eight years, he played another 376 games, scored 56 more goals and won 16 trophies.

Gilmour is hoping to return to Chelsea next season and McGregor believes the experience of being at Norwich will help him do so.

He said: “You leave, you live in a different place, it all has an impact.

“It’s the same for Billy, who left London and had to find his bearings.

“It’s a big challenge. He had to go from playing for one of the best teams in the country to playing for a team that doesn’t have much of the ball.

“It’s tough, especially for someone like Billy who likes to be on the ball.

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“He then has to adapt his game and become a bit more defensive.

“But it’s also been a brilliant learning curve for him.”


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