Roy Keane is not a man easily impressed. Or at least that is the public persona he has cultivated.
An honest – even brutal – pundit, very little about the modern game seemingly appeals to the former Manchester United captain.
Yet in March, just days before all football in the UK was suspended, words of effusive praise escaped from the lips of the Irishman while on Sky Sports.
“I was sitting at home with a cup of tea and a bit of chocolate in front of me and I didn’t have the volume on [the TV],” he said. “So when the game started I got out of my seat, which I rarely do, and I thought: ‘Who is this kid?’
“There are certain traits you want from a midfielder, whether it’s quality on the ball, football intelligence or composure. He had everything, it was one of the best performances I have seen in a long, long time.”
The object of Keane’s rare affection? Chelsea’s young midfielder Billy Gilmour, who days earlier had sparkled against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
“It was like watching a world class player,” Keane said. “That’s what he looked like straight away.”
Click to play
Tap to play
The video will auto-play soon8Cancel
For those of a Chelsea – and we should add Scottish – persuasion, Gilmour’s ascension to the first team at Stamford Bridge has long been expected. But few could have predicted his transformation from relative unknown to household name would take just two games.
His composed and mature display against Liverpool grabbed attention; Keane’s words are proof of that. And he followed that up with another flawless performance against Everton five days later.
After both games, Gilmour was named man-of-the-match. Not that Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was overly surprised.
“People probably think I threw him in against Liverpool in the FA Cup, but he probably deserved to play earlier with the way he was training,” he told Sky Sports last month. “It was probably me…