Laudrup: Gilmour will come back stronger for tough time at Norwich

BRIAN LAUDRUP: Billy Gilmour was made a scapegoat for Norwich’s relegation but the Chelsea kid will only come back stronger… Guiding Scotland to the World Cup would be the perfect riposte to his critics

  • Scotland are just two games away from qualifying for the Qatar World Cup
  • I’d have no hesitation throwing Billy Gilmour in despite tough season at Norwich
  • 20-year-old Chelsea loanee was a convenient scapegoat for their relegation
  • But midfielder will come back stronger for the experience of hardship
  • Gilmour helping Scotland overcome Ukraine and Wales will be a good start 
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates

Every young player encounters hardship at some point. The way you endure it, learn from it, and grow in its wake can help define the future path of your career.

I’ve been there. There was a time when I experienced a crisis in my club game and international football provided the cure. Now we could see something similar happen with Billy Gilmour.

I don’t have any concerns about the 20-year-old lining up for Scotland against Ukraine on Wednesday evening on the back of a very challenging loan spell at Norwich City. None whatsoever.

Billy Gilmour endured a tough season on loan at Norwich as they suffered another relegation

But Gilmour has never let Scotland down and now he can guide them to the Qatar World Cup

Gilmour has shown his class for Steve Clarke’s side on big occasions in the past and can easily do so again. If anything, he will have another strand of motivation to produce his very best form and help Scotland move closer to World Cup qualification.

I can’t understand all the criticism, even blame, that seemed to be directed towards him at Norwich during their unsuccessful fight against relegation. 

Did people expect that he would almost keep them up on his own after moving from Chelsea? I just guess that sometimes a scapegoat is needed.

One thing is certain. Gilmour will have matured a huge amount and learned about the other side of football from the difficulties he’s experienced. He can take lessons forward with him. 

But whether he goes back to Chelsea or is loaned out again, he needs to make sure he finds a far more suitable environment for his style of play next season.

It’s been a blip in a story that only previously contained success. Dealing with that for the first time isn’t easy.

Rangers legend Brian Laudrup has backed Gilmour to guide Scotland into the World Cup

Gilmour pictured in training as Scotland prepare for their World Cup play-off against Ukraine

It was all up and up for me at the start. Success with Brondby, a move to Germany with Bayer Uerdingen and a record transfer to the mighty Bayern Munich. 

But then, just about 18 months older than Gilmour is now, came a serious knee injury and months out of the game as Bayern endured a form slump.

Every footballer goes through some tough spells but international success could be the perfect tonic for the young midfielder

It was tough. Really tough. In my time out, I became involved in some public criticism back and forth with senior figures around the club. It wasn’t a happy moment.

Trying to get back to my past level was the biggest crisis I’d experienced. I still wasn’t quite there, not 100 per cent anyway, when the call came for Euro ’92.

My confidence was low. You almost start to become a little bit sceptical about your own abilities, which can spell real trouble if it creeps into your game.

But enjoying being with Denmark and achieving that success changed everything. It was like a launchpad to propel me forward again in a positive frame of mind.

While Scotland can’t win a trophy this week, reaching a first World Cup in 24 years would be a monumental feat. And it could be a kind of turning point for Gilmour, too.

These play-off games provide another chance for him to show his talent on the big stage. The vision, the technique, the tactical awareness. 

He can put out a reminder of what he is truly about and wipe away all the negativity from last season in the space of 180 minutes.

Norwich suffered another miserable relegation from the Premier League after a tough year

People demanded a lot of me at Bayern because of the fee. You can’t compare Munich to Norwich but there is a little similarity in terms of the expectation that was placed on Gilmour.

A lot of hype developed after the Euros and it felt like a real coup to get him. At some point, reading all the articles, even Norwich fans might have thought they’d got the new Lionel Messi.

That’s always difficult when you’re young. You can go from hero to zero in a couple of games, at a point in your career when you are still developing and need a bit of protection.

Also, from the outside, it looked as though Norwich didn’t really know what to do with Gilmour at first.

Daniel Farke didn’t use him a lot and was sacked. Dean Smith picked him more often after he came in as manager but the trajectory of the season was already set.

Gilmour celebrates with Teemu Pukki after the Finn scored at Wolves earlier this month

Then you had the situation with Norwich fans booing Gilmour a couple of times. Come on. You just don’t do that with young players. You need to build them up, not knock them down.

But what I liked is that Gilmour stayed put. He didn’t demand to go back to Chelsea. He toughed it out and that tells me a lot about the character he has.

In fact, it’s made me even more convinced he will succeed at the very top level. Because the talent is there, that’s obvious.

He’s been a revelation for Scotland and clearly loves the environment that has carefully been created by Clarke. He knows he is trusted. Gilmour will surely have a huge part to play against Ukraine, especially now that Ryan Jack is out.

Gilmour has already enjoyed a taste of playing for Chelsea and is a future star for the club

A combination of Gilmour and Callum McGregor in central midfield is well-tested — think back to the Euros game at Wembley for one example — and more than capable of providing Scotland with a platform for victory.

I was at Hampden for the 2-0 win over Denmark last November, when it was Gilmour beside McGregor again. Scotland were the better team that night. No question. And you could see how much they really wanted to keep their World Cup dream alive.

Some great Scottish players have retired without ever playing in the tournament. But now, for the first time in many years, you can say they have a team with the genuine capability to qualify for the biggest football show on earth.

Ukraine have my sympathies for the terrible situation inflicted upon their country, that goes without saying, but this comes down to 90 minutes of football.

With Gilmour back in business and the wider consistency under Clarke, I think Scotland will set up an all-or-nothing final against Wales on Sunday. What a fantastic prospect.

The young midfielder has already tasted one tournament at Euro 2020 and will want more

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