LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland manager Steve Clarke said he had “selection headaches all over the pitch” ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against Czech Republic on Monday and one player likely to be uppermost in his thoughts is 20-year-old Billy Gilmour.
Clarke has led his team to their first major tournament in 23 years and his side begin their Euro 2020 Group D campaign with arguably their most important match.
With games to come against England and World Cup finalists Croatia, defeat by the Czechs at Hampden Park in Glasgow would leave Scotland facing an uphill task to reach the knockouts.
With that in mind, Clarke may be tempted to inject some added inspiration into a side that has shown it can be a match for anyone when it comes to guts and resilience.
Chelsea youngster Gilmour, who has shown flashes of his talent in the few appearances he has made for his club and briefly lit up Scotland’s warm-up friendly victory over Luxembourg last Sunday, could provide that spark.
With Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Aston Villa’s John McGinn, Scotland’s principle goal threat, seemingly certain starters, Gilmour will be scrapping for a final spot in a likely central midfield three.
He has certainly caught the eye of England’s Phil Foden, another supremely gifted youngster.
“Billy Gilmour is a great talent. He’s still so young and still has a lot to learn. But I’ve played against him a few times and every time I have played against him I have been impressed,” he said.
“He is definitely going to be a great player in the future and he will be a great player for Scotland.”
Clarke will have to decide, however, whether Gilmour is ready to be thrown in at the deep end having only made his full debut in a cameo against the Netherlands at the start of the month.
Scotland and the Czechs know each other well having played twice in the Nations League last year, with the Scots winning both games.
In the first match the Czechs were robbed of their regular squad due to a coronavirus outbreak, while COVID-19 also deprived them of their manager Jaroslav Silhavy in the second meeting.
The Czech side is not filled with standout names like the last one to play in the Euros on British soil. That Czech team, featuring the likes of Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky, were involved in the first Euro final to be decided by a golden goal when they lost to Germany 2-1 in 1996.
The current side does have plenty of top-level experience, however, including West Ham United midfielder Tomas Soucek, who was short-listed for the Premier League’s player of the season, and Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick, the side’s most likely source of goals with 11 in 26 international appearances.
While they were steamrolled 4-0 by Italy in a warmup fixture at the start of the month, they bounced back in their next game to beat Albania 3-1.
(Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Ed Osmond)