Gilmour's next move must be better than his last one

Billy Gilmour signed off from his Norwich City loan watching from the sidelines due to the ankle injury that had made him a doubt for Scotland's crucial World Cup qualifier play-off semi-final against Ukraine, as his team-mates played out their campaign against Tottenham Hotspur.

The 20-year-old playmaker remains a talismanic figure for his country but at club level his future is a great deal more uncertain.

The move to Norwich has been a disaster for Gilmour. The Canaries' season started badly under Daniel Farke as they lost their first four matches to Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Arsenal and got progressively worse as they took until their 11th match to record their first Premier League victory of the campaign.

Plenty of fingers were pointed Gilmour's way with his presence in midfield widely considered to be a contributing factor in some of those defeats and he was subsequently omitted from the starting line-up by Farke. When asked in a press conference about Gilmour's travails Thomas Tuchel, his manager at Chelsea, contended that it was up to the player to find a way to overcome his problems.

He said: “We thought it was important [for him to get minutes] if you decide to on loan, it is as simple as that and I don't mean it harsh, you need to perform on the pitch if you want to make it back here.”

Farke eventually paid the price for Norwich's poor form in November and while his replacement Dean Smith has played Gilmour more frequently neither player nor club have fared much better.

The young Scot has played just 28 games and his development has been stunted which raises the question about what happens next. There is a logjam in the Chelsea midfield that will not ease any with Conor Gallagher's return from a hugely successful loan spell at Crystal Palace which has resulted in a nomination for PFA player of the year. With Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ngolo Kante already vying for starting time the position has suddenly become even more crowded and there looks to be no obvious way in for Gilmour – certainly not on the evidence of his year at Norwich.

It seems inevitable that another loan move will follow. Gilmour and his advisers must ensure it is to a club where he is a much better fit.

It's a big week for Mark Fotheringham

The Scottish coach was brought in to assist Felix Magath as the pair sought to preserve Hertha Berlin's Bundesliga status. Hertha have been something of a yo-yo club in German football since the turn of the century, suffering numerous relegations in that 22-year period. When they found themselves in difficulty once again in March, they turned to the former Fulham manager and his one-time assistant at Craven Cottage. Magath and Fotheringham sparked something of a mini-revival with three wins and a draw from their final eight matches but last week's first leg relegation play-off against Hamburg – another grand old German team with an illustrious past – ended in a frustrating 1-0 defeat.

There is good news and bad for Fotheringham heading into tonight's second leg: the away side on the day hasn’t lost a play-off second leg since 2008/09 (W7, D5), alas Hertha themselves have won just one of their previous 12 games on their travels.

Stewart can fulfil Kettlewell's prophecy

Ross Stewart will get his chance to prove a prophecy correct next season after his clinching goal in Saturday's League One play-off final victory over Wycombe Wanderers. Stuart Kettlewell, his former manager at Ross County, the club Stewart left to join Sunderland in January 2021, was in no doubt about his ceiling and predicted that no matter which level the 25-year-old played at – be it Premier League, Championship or international football – he would adapt and eventually flourish. As it is, it will be the middle of those three levels Stewart will get to test himself at and as Kettlewell, who said it took Stewart just four months to adapt to the rigours of the Premiership following his arrival from Alloa Athletic, noted: “I would be keen to see him go again and I certainly think that he can, whether that is with Sunderland if they can get promotion or someone else. I think he can go to another level and, so far in his career, once he has got to a certain level, we have all been thinking he can go again.”

In praise of ASICS

There have been plenty of high-profile athletes expressing concerns over the impact of a life in the spotlight on their mental health - not least in tennis. It is almost a year since Naomi Osaka announced that she was withdrawing from the French Open due to the strain she was under while

Iga Swiatek, who has won five straight titles and has risen to world No.1, famously hired world renowned sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz not just to help her with her preparation for matches but also dealing with life on the road and in the bubble of the tour.

Sports manufacturer ASICS has taken the idea a step further and has written a provision into the contracts of all of its athletes giving access to confidential assistance for mental health problems.

Not surprisingly Abramowicz has given her backing to the initiative saying: “Stress and anxiety are at record highs for us all, including elite athletes. By offering confidential support, I believe we can help normalise what is normal and help them on their journey to a sound mind in a sound body.”

Stop the clock

The latest instalment in the series of Things That Grind My Gears About Rugby came on Saturday in the World Rugby Sevens in Toulouse.

In the group match between England and Argentina, England's Will Homer ran down the clock by more than two minutes before he was challenged to ground the ball for a try. It meant Argentina ran out 19-7 winners, as boos from the stands echoed in the background, a result that ensured both sides qualified at the expense of Canada, who had been tied with the other two on seven points heading into the last round of group matches.

In the laws of rugby Law 10.2 (b) states: “Time-wasting. A player must not intentionally waste time,” a definition that fails to deal adequately with a scenario such as the one detailed above. But Nigel Owens, the former referee, said it should have been incumbent on the official to intervene saying: "When I was refereeing on the WR 7s circuit we would tell the player to ground the ball in this situation. I'm amazed the referee hasn't told him too."

Fortunately, both Argentina and England paid for their hubris, and lost in the quarter-finals.


The number of days between Ryan Jack's last goal for Rangers – the winner in a 1-0 Premiership victory over Kilmarnock on February 13 last season – and his opener in Saturday's Scottish Cup final against Hearts.