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Steve Clarke got Billy Gilmour Scotland timing wrong but now our best player is ready to rip it up - Keith Jackson

Three years ago, Steve Clarke wasn’t entirely convinced that Billy Gilmour was ready to take the world stage by storm.

It remains one of the few miscalculations Clarke has made during his five years as Scotland ’s manager. And, now that he and his squad have arrived here in their idyllic new home at the base of the Bavarian Alps, it’s one which is highly unlikely to be repeated over the course of the next few weeks.

In many ways, Gilmour’s dramatic international emergence back in the summer of 2021 was perfectly symbolic of where Clarke’s squad were at the time. It was almost as if, by qualifying for a first major finals since France 98 - and slipping into that tournament through a socially distanced side door via a penalty shootout - they had almost managed to catch themselves by surprise. In retrospect, Clarke’s work back then was slightly ahead of schedule.

Yes, Gilmour was drafted into the group at the eleventh hour for warm up matches against the Netherlands and Luxembourg. But only because the battle against an ongoing global pandemic allowed the man in charge to slip a couple of wildcards to his travelling party without forcing his hand into making what may have felt like a wholly uncharacteristic and slightly reckless gamble.

He had been attracted to Gilmour’s glaring ability but not completely won over by it. Which is probably why the new boy was omitted from Clarke’s starting line-up for that opening game at Hampden against the Czechs on the day that the nation was forced into accepting that this whole thing was probably a bit too much for them. And a bit too soon.

It was only after that spirit-puncturing 2-0 defeat that Clarke felt emboldened enough to throw the dice on a player who was still only 19 years