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Charlie Gilmour: St Johnstone new boy who caught eye of Unai Emery at Arsenal and refused to stay in his comfort zone

Charlie Gilmour in action for Scotland U-19s.
Charlie Gilmour in action for Scotland U-19s.

Charlie Gilmour was handed a Euro baptism at Arsenal under Unai Emery.

And the Scotland U-19 international was farmed out to Dutch side Telstar from Norwich City last season.

Former Arsenal, PSG and Sevilla boss Unai Emery.
Former Arsenal, PSG and Sevilla boss Unai Emery.

Now, following an anxious three-month wait to secure a new club, the defensive midfielder is determined to seize his chance at St Johnstone.

After impressing on trial, Perth boss Callum Davidson has handed the 21-year-old a chance to get his career back on track with a deal through to the summer.

And he has challenged Brighton-born Gilmour to play his way into a longer-term stay north of the border.

Coming through the Arsenal academy

“I was at Arsenal during the Emery days,” said Gilmour.

“I would be training with the first team quite frequently and made two substitute appearances in Europe against Qarabağ from Khazikstan and Vorskla from Ukraine.

“Obviously Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world, so as a footballer I’m grateful to have that background and to have had that opportunity to play alongside the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexandre Lacazette to see what they do first hand and why they’re playing at the top level.

“But St Johnstone is the next chapter in my career.

Great opportunity to play top-flight football

“I’m excited to be here, my family is excited to have me playing here – particularly my nan and grandad who still live in Scotland.

“It’s an opportunity to play in a good league and obviously being half-Scottish makes it an exciting move for me personally.

“The club has been getting great results recently to move up the table and obviously there’s a cup final to come.”

Gilmour believes Perth manager Callum Davidson will get him back on track, with a Betfred Cup final clash against Livingston in his sights.

Charlie Gilmour.
Charlie Gilmour.

And he is delighted to hook-up with pal Glenn Middleton, who recently signed on loan from Wednesday’s rivals Rangers.

Gilmour said: “Callum is a good man-manager and he always speaks to you.

“He’s always welcoming, always encouraging. I feel like he can get the best out of me.

“Coming in, I only knew Glenn from the youth set-up with Scotland so it’s good to have a familiar face.

“But I feel like I’m a character who gets on well with anyone anyway.

“I’m looking forward to being around the first team every day and to show what I can do.”

Staying in touch with pals from Gunners days

Gilmour had been in Arsenal’s youth setup from the age of six and 12 years later got his first-team bow around the same time as Mikel Arteta’s rising stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

He was the first Scot (since Scott Marshall) to represent the club in over two decades.

But Gilmour would rather look forward than dwell on his European experiences with the Gunners.

Last year he told The Athletic: “The Europa League was an unbelievable experience; something to be proud of.

“But I don’t think about it now. I feel like maybe one day, hopefully, if I ever get up the leagues, then I can sit back and think about it.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah.
Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah.

“But because I know where I am at this present moment in time, I don’t really think about the past.

“I still keep in contact with guys at Arsenal. People like Eddie (Nketiah), Joe (Willock), Reiss (Nelson).

“A lot of boys that have left Arsenal as well, like Josh Dasilva at Brentford, Marcus McGuane.

“It’s just crazy to see where everyone is now. You look at other people you played with and you see them doing so well, or even not doing so well and it’s surprising to you.

“But it’s important not to worry about other people’s pathways because that could be your own downfall.”

What happened at Norwich?

He joined Norwich in July 2019 and it’s fair to say his Canaries move didn’t go according to plan.

Gilmour’s departure by mutual agreement – just over half way through a two-year deal – was confirmed last October and he left without playing a game at any level for the English Championship side.

Speaking before his St Johnstone switch, he said: “You sort of know that you’re not going to get a chance or that you’re not in a club’s plans, so you just need to be honest with yourself and say this isn’t going to be the club for me to have a career.

“It’s recognising it and doing something about it, because a lot of people can just be in their comfort zone.

“I could’ve just stayed at Norwich for the last year of my contract, had nice facilities, good coaching.

“But I just want to start my career now. That career is short as it is.

“I’m 21 and I just want to be around a first team. I felt that wasn’t going to happen at Norwich, I played last year (with Telstar) and loved it.

“I just want to compete every week and do what I love doing, which is playing games and trying to go as high as I can up the levels.

“It’s not great for your confidence (leaving Norwich) but you just have to be strong.

“You’re going to get knockbacks in life. Especially in football. It’s about controlling yourself, in the good and the bad times.

“Everything in my life is to do with football. I’m always thinking about it, good or bad.

“At the minute it’s not been great for me but I know it can change in the blink of an eye, so I’m just waiting for my opportunity and hopefully I grab it.”