Billy Gilmour will be an integral part of Norwich hopes
Back to back beginnings. Back-to-back Man of the Match awards. Life under Dean Smith started off brilliantly for Norwich and Billy Gilmour laid the groundwork.
The Scots’ omission under Daniel Farke became a stick to beat the German as his Carrow Road reign neared its end. It is very rare that a team widely approached for relegation at the start of the season has in its ranks a talent like Gilmour, on loan from Chelsea until the summer. It was a puzzle to ignore his qualities.
“When you have a player of this talent on loan, you want to get the best out of him,” replied Dean Smith when asked about Gilmour’s status at the club after his appointment. “We want to use his strength. Billy will be very important to stay on his feet.”
Smith kept his word. While under Farke, those with a vested interest in the midfielder would think twice before reading the Norwich roster, Smith made him the first name on it.
It was immediately obvious what he was bringing to this Norwich side in the first trades of their goalless draw with Wolves. The Scotsman’s vision is exceptional, allowing him to pass down the front line with just the correct weight for the forwards to take the ball in their stride.
In the 20th minute, Norwich recovered the ball in Wolves’ half of the field. As Josh Sargent moved away to the right as an obvious passing option when Gilmour recovered the ball, the midfielder manipulated the situation, using his eyes to shift the Wolves defense to occupy Sargent before releasing Teemu Pukki in the space on the opposite side.
Only a moment of hesitation from the Finnish striker prevented Norwich from scoring a goal.
Gilmour ended his afternoon with 91% passing accuracy, creating two chances as Norwich dominated the visitors. Most impressive is that the Scotsman was booked after just 26 minutes of the game, showing impressive composure to avoid a second warning despite recovering balls as the Canaries kept up their pressure in the second half.
It was exactly this advantage he brought to Norwich performances that impressed Dean Smith. The former Villa boss cited Gilmour’s first start in a Chelsea shirt against Liverpool in the FA Cup in 2020 when asked about the midfielder’s qualities last week. It’s no wonder Smith was taken aback by Gilmour’s display given the confidence he showed that night.
Smith has wasted no time fixing Norwich’s problems since taking control earlier this month. They no longer appear to be defensively vulnerable, while their ability to cross the court has improved dramatically. Gilmour’s influence on the latter was evident.
“My role is to learn as much as possible about the players and find those little nuances that can make the most of it,” the Norwich boss said of his squad ahead of this weekend. Smith has given Gilmour the same responsibility he carries internationally for Scotland.
Norwich will benefit from this.