Ballet dancer

Billy Gilmour ‘wanted to be the best’ ballet dancer and is now shining for Scotland

Scottish fans are expecting big things from midfielder Billy Gilmour after he was named Man of the Match for his performance in the 0-0 draw with England at Euro 2020.

Steve Clarke couldn’t have asked for much more from the Chelsea anchor after he made things uncomfortable for the Three Lions during a 76-minute display, slipping relentlessly on the Wembley turf.

It was a performance in keeping with Gilmour’s relentlessly competitive nature, an attitude that dates back to his days as an under-12 prospect with the Rangers in 2012.

It was then that Gilmour caught the eye of a scout for the Scottish FA Performance Schools, an initiative which provides ‘individual-focused training’ for the country’s top young talent.

Billy Gilmour made his first Scotland start against England at Euro 2020

And coach Andy Goldie said BBC Sports Gilmour maintained that drive to be the best when players were told to take an eight-week ballet course: “He wanted to be the best at it.

“He didn’t care what other people thought. The dance teacher thought he was absolutely fantastic.”

While some teammates were embarrassed to attempt even a pirouette, Gilmour saw the sessions as an opportunity to broaden his horizons and train in a way he was less used to.

The 20-year-old’s emergence as a future Premier League star cannot be entirely attributed to those days in the studio, but it is indicative of his tireless attitude towards improvement.

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Gilmour received rave reviews at the Rangers academy
Gilmour received rave reviews at Rangers academy before joining the Chelsea team in 2017

Goldie – who was a performance schools coach when he signed Gilmour but is now academy manager at Dundee United – added: “He stood out like a sore thumb.

“Not just in his ability, but his desire to win, to compete, his willingness to take the ball under pressure. He was like a young captain. He had a real presence around him despite his small frame. My eyes were drawn to him.

Rangers were unable to retain their academy gem, who joined Chelsea’s youth roster in 2017 and has since made 22 first-team appearances for Europe’s reigning kings.

Gilmour made his senior debut for Scotland in a friendly draw with the Netherlands in early June, earning his first international start and first competitive cap in Friday’s 0-0 stalemate against England.

Billy Gilmour from Scotland poses for a picture with their Heineken "star of the game" Price after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium on June 18, 2021 in London, England.
Billy Gilmour won the Star of the Match award for his display against England

The player has since been disappointed to learn he will not feature in Scotland’s final Group D game against Croatia on Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus.

Gilmour will now be forced to self-isolate for 10 days before he can rejoin the team, which will struggle to replace his fleet footwork and tenacity in the middle of the park.

He’s not the only athlete to have used dance as a way to elevate performance levels in a completely different craft.

Vasyl Lomachenko became one of boxing's greatest after taking dance lessons to improve his footwork
Vasyl Lomachenko became one of boxing’s greatest after taking dance lessons to improve his footwork

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Former three-weight boxing world champion Vasyl Lomachenko was forced to take traditional Ukrainian dance lessons as a child to improve his footwork.

Gilmour – voted Chelsea Academy Player of the Year for 2020 – is already a Champions League winner after two seasons as a professional, but this promises to be just the start of his high-flying exploits.

Scotland will be hoping to advance to Euro 2020 so they have another chance to put their skills to good use this summer, having honed their skills in any way necessary to try and beat the best.