Malky Mackay: 'Billy Gilmour could have emulated Barry Ferguson at Rangers'
Billy Gilmour could have emulated former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson had he stayed at Ibrox, Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay believes.
The 16-year-old midfielder opted instead to sign for Premier League champions Chelsea this summer.
Mackay advised Gilmour, and his parents, he should remain with Rangers.
"There's a good chance, in the next 18 months, Billy could have got into that Rangers first-team," Mackay said.
"I did speak to Billy and his mum and dad as an independent, and someone who had been a manager in England and had dealings with young players who had the possibility of going to Manchester City.
"It is quite evident why they decided to do what they did."
Ferguson won five top-flight titles, five Scottish Cups and five Scottish League Cups over two spells at Ibrox.
"I would have loved to have seen him stay at Rangers and, by the time he was 21, we'd have an incredibly exciting talent," Mackay continued.
"I really hope he goes out on loan quickly to someone and keeps progressing. I need good Scottish talent coming through.
"He's not physically ready for Rangers' first-team, but in 18 months' time, when he is 17-and-a-half, 18, that's when he becomes a Barry Ferguson.
"Barry had played 200 games for Rangers by the time he was 21."
As 48 children poised to begin high school in the new term enter the SFA's four-year performance schools programme, Mackay has also issued a warning to the nation's latest batch of budding footballers.
The seven schools aim to ensure Scotland's top young players combine their football education with their normal curriculum between the ages of 12 and 16.
"The demands me and my coaches will put on them will be England Premier League standard," Mackay said. "I said to them, what they think is hard work, double it, then you might have a chance.
"They need to realise how much sacrifice they need to make in their lives over the next few years, how hard they are going to have to work, on their own, away from everyone.
"When they have to do extra work on their own, sacrifice going out with their friends, sacrifice going to the cinema when they have to train, sacrifice what they eat and drink to make sure that their bodies are in a situation where they can play professional football.
"That's what I would urge the players to realise: what they think is hard work is nowhere near it.
"There will be ones who fall away and ones who can't handle it, but I want to make sure we show them the path that is open to them."
Referencing Scotland Under-20s' performance in the Toulon Tournament during June, where the Scots beat Indonesia, Brazil and Czech Republic, Mackay stressed the importance of young players being granted opportunities to play for their clubs.
"Three of the best players in that tournament played 25 games and up for Kilmarnock last year - Adam Frizzell, Iain Wilson, Greg Taylor," the former Cardiff City boss said.
"The only reason they played was the experiment of a bus-full of loan players coming up from England didn't work and the manager had to turn to them.
"And all of a sudden, these kids come in, hold their own and, the next minute, they're confidently holding their own over in Toulon.
"Our youngsters have to get chances. For that to happen, the manager has to be relaxed enough to know he's got more than six weeks in a job.
"Sometimes it's about a club view. If a club decides it's going to go down a route, it needs to back the manager or tell the manager: this is the route we're going down, you will play some young players and we will take the consequences of that.
"But it allows the manager to then play some youngsters coming through into their first-teams.
"Hamilton Academical are a huge example of that - no matter what, that manager knows he's got the backing of the people above him, there is actually a plan at the club that, if they are going to invest so heavily in their academy, which they do, they are going to be flourishing with players coming through.
"Why are the players not coming through? They've got to be given a chance - if they are good enough."