Billy Gilmour’s display in the win against Southampton will give Dean Smith hope of surviving
March 3, 2020. Chelsea are facing Liverpool in the FA Cup and Dean Smith is at Stamford Bridge, scouting Aston Villa’s upcoming opponents. He left with a crinkled team sheet in his pocket, the name of the lad wearing the No 47 shirt circled as a potential loan target.
It was Billy Gilmour. ‘He ran the show,’ Smith said, thinking back to the first time he saw the young man he says will be ‘vital’ now if Norwich are to remain a Premier League club.
Against Southampton on Saturday we were treated to a performance of control and class from the 20-year-old Scotland midfielder. On loan at Norwich from Chelsea, Daniel Farke didn’t see his importance and his overlooking of Gilmour was partly why he paid the price with his job. Smith won’t make that mistake, having immediately handed him his first start since September.
Billy Gilmour put in an impressive midfield performance in Norwich’s win vs Southampton
Dean Smith has been an admirer of Gilmour since watching him play for Chelsea in 2020
‘He’s a terrific player,’ Smith said. ‘But better than that is his attitude and character. He loves football, and wants to be out there all the time.’
A student of the game, on Friday night Gilmour could be found at Norwich’s training ground watching their Under-23s draw 1-1 with Charlton. Come Saturday, he was putting in a man-of-the-match performance at Carrow Road.
The statistics say Norwich have been one of the worst at keeping possession this season. Gilmour is at his best with a ball at his feet, with Match of the Day dedicating a separate segment to the youngster’s movements on Saturday.
‘He was all over the pitch trying to drive the players on,’ Smith continued. ‘He’s a wonderful character and wonderful player. He will be vital for us. When you have a player of that talent on loan we want to get the best out of him.’
Grant Hanley, the scorer of Norwich’s winner at the back post, was asked about the starlet who set up his goal. ‘He will play at the top of the top,’ Hanley said of Gilmour. ‘The type of player he is and the ability he’s got, his attitude and mentality, you only see it in certain players.
‘His mentality is never a problem, even when he had a tough time not playing. He’s probably the best player every day in training and every time he plays. But actually he was supposed to put that corner to the front post — he over-hit it!’
Grant Hanley scored the winner as the Canaries came from behind to beat Southampton 2-1
Smith got the big calls right on Saturday. His 4-3-3 worked. His decision to drop Andrew Omobamidele for Hanley was justified. His half-time substitution — replacing Todd Cantwell with Joshua Sargent — changed the game. Smith took on the task of keeping Norwich up knowing it will not be easy. That was emphasised inside the opening four minutes, as Southampton took the lead through Che Adams.
Yet goals from Teemu Pukki and Hanley completed the turnaround, giving Smith the dream start to life in charge of his new club. It made him the first Norwich coach to win his opening Premier League game since Mike Walker in 1992.
The new-manager bounce is real, and Southampton felt it. Ralph Hasenhuttl talked about the ‘energy’ in the stadium. James Ward-Prowse talked about the ‘emotion in the stands’.Southampton’s failure to kill those vibes being poured on to the pitch was their downfall. They were on top in the first half, but they simply couldn’t handle Norwich, or Gilmour, in the second.