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Steve Clarke insists there was no risk starting Billy Gilmour against England

By June 18, 2021No Comments

Steve Clarke insisted there was no risk starting Billy Gilmour for the first time after the Chelsea midfielder starred in Scotland’s goalless draw against England which put Euro 2020 hopes back on track.

The 20-year-old had made two substitute appearances but had not featured in the opening Group D defeat by Czech Republic at Hampden Park which piled pressure on the Scots for the trip to Wembley.

Gilmour looked as if he was made for the big stage as Scotland came away with a deserved point which means they have a chance of qualifying out of the group against Croatia at Hampden Park next Tuesday.

Clarke said: “I don’t think there is any element of risk when you have a player of Billy Gilmour’s talent, when you put him on the pitch you expect him to do what he did which was to get a hold of the ball for us, make us play through the midfield. So I didn’t feel it was a risk.

“Obviously the balance or the rest of the team has got to be right to support Billy and I think we got that right tonight.

“I think you have to look at the team performance as well, a lot of players supported him getting through 75 minutes of his first start

“I thought Stephen O’Donnell was exceptional and Billy was just behind him. It was nice for Billy to get that start, a big platform, a big stage, a big player. I have said for a long time that he will be part of the future of Scottish football.

“We know what we have got in camp, we try to manage him properly, keep a lid on things and performances like that will do him no harm whatsoever.”

The Scots have never qualified out of a group at a major finals but with one point from two games, they could make history when they take on Croatia, who also have a point, while England and the Czechs have four points ahead of their meeting.

Clarke believes his side came in for some unfair criticism after the 2-0 defeat by the Czechs.

He said: “I am pleased for everybody, all my players and all my staff. It was a little bit unfair some of the stuff that came our way after Monday’s result.

“The objective tonight was to get something from the game so we could go to the last game with a genuine chance of qualifying and that is what we have done

“We have been improving for a long time so it was nice to see the play on the pitch, we defended well, the most pleasing aspect was we played well.”

Clarke made four changes with fit-again Kieran Tierney coming back into defence, Scott McTominay dropping back to midfield with playmaker Callum McGregor and striker Che Adams reinstated.

He explained: “Getting Kieran into the back three with Scott gives us the platform to build from the back to play football and Billy and Callum (McGregor) in midfield are both good footballers.

“We knew we couldn’t defend here for 95 minutes or whatever, we knew when we had the ball we had to take care of it and try to create our own chances and that is what we managed to do.”