Having emerged as a regular for the Seagulls, likewise helping Scotland qualify for the Euros next summer, the smile on Billy Gilmour’s face has been even bigger than usual of late!
Billy, you’ve been playing more regularly this season. How have you been finding it?
Yeah, it’s really good and really enjoyable to be playing in this team. Everyone’s watching Brighton; it’s an attractive style of football, and being out on the pitch, it’s nice to be a part of it. It’s intense, of course, there’s a lot of goals in our games, but at the same time it’s brave as well. We’ll make a couple of mistakes, that’s how we build up, but it’s a style of play that we are now familiar with. The style of play here goes right through the system, from the youth to the first team, so we’re all on the same page. I came here to be an important player in the team and to do as much as possible for the team, and I’ve played in most of the games so far. It’s a great place to be and to play football.
Playing a more cautious way is not in the gaffer’s thinking, is it?
We’ll always go out there to try and win the game. Of course, we don’t know what the end result will be, but we always go onto the pitch with real self-belief to try and win the game. I think the mindset has changed a lot in the two seasons I’ve been here in that respect. We’ve got our philosophy and we stick to it and battle. We also have a real togetherness in the squad, so if someone’s having a difficult time, the rest of us will be there to back him up. That’s true of everyone, right through the squad.
What’s the gaffer like on the training ground?
When he first came in, we did tactics every single day – it was kind of mind-blowing. The players were like, ‘Is this going to work?’ but he was so passionate, so determined to get his message across and then it just clicked. Since then, we’ve been 100 per cent behind everything he’s done, every message he’s given us, and it’s fantastic when we get results like we have done against the likes of Arsenal and Man City. The gaffer has worked so hard with us on the training ground that we know exactly what we’re going to do and everyone trusts each other on the ball. The gaffer has put his plan across and it’s only going to get better.
There’s an element of risk though to the way we play. Is that not a concern?
Some players and fans of other clubs might watch our games and be like, ‘Oh, that’s risky’ but not for us, as there’s been a lot of study – that’s how it is. We know with our timing when to play and when not to play it, so for us it’s a joy rather than a risk. That’s how football should be played as well; I think the gaffer has changed a lot of people’s minds in the game about how football should be played and it might be a case now where teams might copy us, who knows?
Do you think your own game has kicked on as a result?
The more I’ve been playing, I feel that I’ve got my confidence back and want to get on the ball as much as possible. That’s a big part of my game: to be confident and take the ball anywhere, to try and play forward and to keep the ball. And then I’m going to say score! I’ve not scored yet, but I still see that as part of my game.
Your club form has also seen you feature regularly for Scotland. How does it feel to have qualified for the Euros next summer?
It’s been a very successful campaign. Of course we’ve got two games still to play [against Georgia and Norway] and we want to finish strongly with two wins, but it’s an amazing feeling to qualify for another tournament and we’re all looking forward – the players, staff, everyone behind the scenes – to next summer. Personally, I’ve been really happy to have been a part of the campaign from the start; it’s a great group, we stick by each other and push each other on in every game. We’re a really close group, it’s like a family, but like I said, we want to send the fans off with two wins from our final group games. Then we’ll go to Germany and give it our all. We want to push ourselves and test ourselves to the max.
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You also scored your first international goal in the recent friendly defeat against France. Tell us more…
It’s a bit of a relief to be honest, but I’m happy to score my first goal for my country. I remember running forward and I tried to cut the ball back; I think it got intercepted and it landed straight at my feet. My first thought was to just shoot and when it went in I was buzzing. We got beat on the night [4-1] but on a personal note, it was nice to score.
You mention a family. Is it also like that with the Albion?
It’s exactly like that. I love coming in to training, to be around the boys, and it’s massive for the team when you have an environment like that. When you’re with the lads every single day, it is like a real family. Off the pitch some of the boys might say, ‘Let’s go out for dinner’ and then we all go. It’s also like that with the coaching staff, where the gaffer will take his staff out to an Italian restaurant. There’s a really good bond here and that shows when we’re on the pitch.