It was on this day last year that Billy Gilmour pulled off one of the biggest achievements of any Chelsea player in recent memory: he impressed Roy Keane.
Yes, that Roy Keane. The irritable, dour, take-no-prisoners Irishman who is seemingly able to identify a player’s smallest fault and hone in on it with laser-like precision during his punditry work.
But when it came to Gilmour, and specifically the 90 minutes he played in Chelsea’s FA Cup fifth round victory over Liverpool on March 3, 2019, Keane could only stand and admire. There are unconfirmed reports he even cracked a smile.
“I was sitting at home with my cup of tea and my chocolate in front of me and I didn’t have the volume on,” Keane said days later when asked about Gilmour’s display. “And as the game started, I literally got out of my seat, which I very rarely do and I thought, ‘who is this kid in midfield?’
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“There are certain traits you want from the midfielder. Obviously, you want them to be good on the ball. Football intelligence, composure. He had everything. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Keane added: “Just his general play the way the game started, I thought, he just looked like a world-class player. That’s what he looked like, straight away.”
The former Manchester United captain wasn’t alone in his adulation for Gilmour’s display.
Liverpool full-back and Scotland captain Andrew Robertson offered his shirt and praise to his young compatriot after the game. And naturally, Chelsea’s head coach Frank Lampard was effusive in his comments for the 18-year-old he had thrust into the spotlight.
“He’s a throwback to the days of midfielders I grew up [watching],” Lampard said. “And people will say can you put your foot in? Yes. Can you make angles to always get the ball? Yes. Can you play the right pass and pick the simple one at the…