Lying on the Ayrshire coastline, on the face of it, Ardrossan is like any other Scottish seaside town.
Relatively anonymous with its rows of houses, harbour and modest beach, it makes up ‘The Three Towns’ alongside Saltcoats and Stevenson.
With the shipbuilding industry gone and tourism from city holidaymakers faded over time, Ardrossan is now perhaps best known for being the town at the end of the train line from Glasgow and a ferry terminal to Arran.
That is until Billy Gilmour burst onto the scene.
The Chelsea kid has helped put the town back into the national consciousness since his move to Stamford Bridge from Rangers in 2017.
Now a Champions League winner with the Blues and headed for the Euros with Scotland, you’d think the 20-year-old midfielder would, even subconsciously, be sailing away and leaving his roots behind?
Speak to Dundee United academy chief Andy Goldie, who coached Gilmour at the SFA Performance School at Grange Academy in Kilmarnock, though, and it’s clear the rising talent is still very much just a boy from the Shire.
‘He’s still Billy from Ardrossan’
“Nothing fazes him,” Goldie asserted.
“Although, he’s a humble young man, he’s still Billy from Ardrossan and has never changed.
“He’s the exact same person as he was when he first came into the school programme despite being a Champions League winner and a Scotland international.
“He’s as brave as a lion, he’s got an arrogance on the pitch and really backs himself.
“He’s able to go and show that now, put that into practice with his performances.
“The players he’s played against have spoken highly of him and even the adulation he’s getting from guys like Roy Keane who’ve been there and done it at the highest level.
“It’s incredible and he deserves it.”
Gilmour’s ascent no shock to Goldie
Working with Gilmour right up until his move to West London four years ago, Goldie isn’t surprised to see the youngster make a success of what was, at the time, a controversial switch from the Gers.
He has slowly carved out first-team opportunities at Chelsea, making 22 appearances over the last two seasons, and is now reaping the rewards at international level.
“I’m not surprised in the slightest, not at all,” the United academy director added.
“He’s a boy that set out his ambition from such an early age that he wanted to be one of the best players in the world.
“He’s definitely on that trajectory just now. He’s well on his way to achieving that.
“He probably wants to be further down the line and will have wanted to have featured in, if not started, the Champions League Final.
“You see the impact he’s made in his performances against some of the world’s best central midfielders over the last 18 months.
“You can see he’s got a great future and an exciting campaign for the Euros ahead of him.”
Will Steve Clarke hand Chelsea kid a start?
After impressing in warm-up friendlies against Holland and Luxembourg, his only two caps to date, Gilmour has been touted for a starting role in Scotland’s Group D campaign.
With the Czech Republic up first at Hampden on Monday and England and Croatia to follow, Goldie believes Gilmour will have given Scots boss Steve Clarke food for thought.
And not just with his on-pitch displays but, too, the humble way in which the youngster carries himself, something that will no doubt appeal to Saltcoats-native Clarke.
“Knowing Billy, I think he’ll be giving him a decision to make,” Goldie mused.
“I would suspect that Steve Clarke had a midfield and a starting XI in his mind going into the first game.
“Whether Billy’s had enough time to break into that I don’t know.
“He’s certainly came in and made an impact in the preparation games.
“I’ve absolutely no doubt whatsoever he’d have made an impact in the training camp as well.
“For example, I know that on day one, and this probably shows the humility of him, he came in and shook the hand of every player and member of staff and introduced himself as Billy.
“He’s a Champions League winner, one of only two within that group, and he still goes in and tells people who he is as if nobody knows.
“When he gets on the pitch, though, as much as he’s respectful, he’ll be making sure whoever is up against him will know they’re in a game.”
Competition for places benefits Scots
Gilmour will be up against it to make the Czech selection with the national team currently possessing an embarrassment of riches in the middle of the park.
It’s a point not lost on the Tangerines youth supremo but he’s backing his golden boy to grab any opportunity presented to him in this, his first senior Scotland squad.
Goldie continued: “You can mention Scott McTominay, John McGinn, Callum McGregor but there’s Stuart Armstrong who’s had a fantastic season and Ryan Gauld who didn’t even make the squad, unbelievably.
“The depth in quality that we have, particularly in that central midfield position, is very exciting for us.
“It’s great kudos to all the clubs that have helped develop these players throughout their academy years and in the first teams.
“It’s also credit to a change in style Steve Clarke is now starting to evolve.
“We saw it against Holland and Luxembourg – ball players have a more prominent part in how we play.
“It’s a very difficult decision but it does look like he’ll play a version of the 3-5-2.
“The depth in midfield means it’s going to be very hard to pick but I’ve got no doubt whatsoever that, if Billy gets his opportunity, he’ll grab it and be ready.”
Performance school kids set the standard
Alongside Rangers’ 19-year-old right-back Nathan Patterson, who attended Holyrood secondary, Gilmour is an example of the SFA performance schools working.
With both in the Scotland squad, there’s a sense of a vision for the future starting to come to fruition and Goldie hopes it inspires players in Dundee to follow their lead.
No matter where you come from, even if it’s anonymous Ardrossan, Gilmour proves a little hard work just might get you to where you want to be.
“They’re now the poster boys,” he said.
“They’ve achieved it first in making their international debuts, Billy’s in the Champions League, Nathan in the Europa League and, hopefully, the Champions League next season.
“They’re fantastic kids. Nathan was a real competitor as well.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic story for both of them. It’s the perfect journey but both boys have had to work extremely hard.
“They’ve both had their setbacks and challenges to overcome and have made sacrifices so I think it’s important that young players understand it wasn’t easy.
“They had to really fight for it and work hard for it and I hope the young players, both at Dundee and United, can take inspiration from that.”