New Norwich manager Dean Smith believes playing – and indeed getting the best from – loan star Billy Gilmour is crucial if the Canaries are to secure their status in the Premier League.
Smith was ushered in as new Canaries manager eight days ago – and his reign got off to the perfect start on Saturday. That’s after goals from Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley earned a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Southampton.
And having won on their last outing under Daniel Farke, back-to-back successes have given Norwich belief they can compete at this level.
Key to Saturday’s win was the performance of Chelsea loan star Gilmour. His future at the club had been placed in doubt following Farke’s decision to keep him benched.
However, Smith’s appointment appears to have brought about a change – and Smith is fully aware of his importance.
“Billy will be very vital to staying up,” Smith said.
“When you have a player of that talent on loan, you want to get the best out of him. We want to utilise the strengths he has and he was part of a good team performance in the second half.
“He showed pockets of what he could do in the first half but we had to see another side to him because we didn’t have an awful lot of the ball, but I think he showed everybody what he can do.”
Smith only had limited time with Gilmour before Saturday’s match with Saints due to the Scotland international being away with the national team but has quickly been impressed by the youngster.
The 20-year-old started four of Norwich’s first five league games. However, he was dropped to the bench after the home defeat to Watford on September 18.
Indeed prior to his start against Southampton he had played more minutes for Scotland than the Canaries this term.
His new manager added: “I saw him play for Scotland in the international period and he is a footballer, there is no denying that.
“I went to watch him in one of his first games for Chelsea against Liverpool in the FA Cup and he ran the show. He is a terrific player but better than that is his attitude and character.
“Billy just loves football and wants to be out there all the time. He was watching our Under-23s play on Friday night. Then he was all over the pitch against Southampton trying to drive the players on. He is a wonderful character and a wonderful player as well.”
Hanley also talks up Gilmour qualities
Gilmour set up the winner with a corner to the back post from which Hanley scored.
The Canaries skipper was also full of praise for his club and international colleague.
Hanley said: “The type of player he is and the ability he has got, his attitude and mentality you only see in certain players. He’s one who can play at the top.
“There is no doubt in my mind Billy Gilmour will play right at the very top. There is not too much you have to say to him.
“He is unbelievable every single day and with his mentality, he is never a problem. Obviously he has had a bit of a tough time not playing. But he is probably the best player every day in training. And every time he plays he is probably the best player.
“There is nothing to say about Billy Gilmour.
“But actually he was supposed to put that corner to the front post and overhit it!”