IT’S the oldest rivalry in international football, and the Scotland performance had all the hallmarks of the glory days of the past. But within it was a glimpse of what is surely a promising future.

If the Tartan Army were grumbling about Steve Clarke’s perceived conservative approach to his selections for the Czech Republic game, the same accusation could not be levelled at him here. Yes, there were a few grimaces at Stephen O’Donnell being preferred to Nathan Patterson, few of which would be repeated after a brilliant showing from the right wing-back, but the name they had most desired to see was on the starting teamsheet.

Billy Gilmour was in. There were also two in attack in the shape of Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes. In relative terms, this was as gung-ho as Clarke could possibly allow himself to go.

The tone was set, could the players maintain it? And could Gilmour have the impact we all hoped he would?

It was difficult for all of the midfielders in the opening stages as both sides seemed to forget that part of the field existed, but the first time Scotland got Gilmour into the game he helped carve the English open.

A wonderful exchange with the much-maligned O’Donnell down the right saw the Motherwell man released in space, and he picked out a lovely cutback for Adams in a great area, but the striker’s shot was blocked.

One thing Gilmour certainly isn’t in the team for is defending set-pieces, and if Scotland’s defence were as slack as they were when they allowed John Stones to rise like a salmon unchallenged to crash a header off the post from a corner, his inclusion would make little difference.

The Chelsea youngster was a little exposed though when a one-two between Mason Mount and Phil Foden saw him floundering, but he was undeterred. Indeed, a tussle with club teammate Mount shortly after showed that what he may lack in physical stature, he was more than willing to make up for with sheer determination.

If anything, the most eye-catching attacking player for Scotland as the half wore on was O’Donnell, and he nearly won the freedom of Scotland as he ghosted forward to latch on to a Kieran Tierney switch and connected sweetly with a volley that Jordan Pickford saved brilliantly low to his right.

England had a lot of the ball but were getting short on ideas, and Scotland were glad of Gilmour’s composure when they had their periods in possession. Indeed, just before half-time the Scots strung together a series of passes that was indicative of their growing confidence, with Gilmour at the centre of it all.

At the interval, the 20-year-old could be happy with his contribution. Yes, he was outmuscled once or twice by Mount, but he had grown into the game and had begun to make his presence felt. Make no mistake, it was the presence of Tierney that had been the most significant factor for Scotland, but Gilmour had played his part in a more than satisfactory first 45 minutes.

His calmness in possession was proving valuable again at the start of the second half, but Scotland were noticeably dropping a little deeper.

He showed his defensive qualities and desire to get back though and foil an England break brilliantly, only to be penalised for a foul for the apparent crime of standing too close to Harry Kane. Fortunately, justice was served and the set-piece came to nothing.

The success of the Scots in stymieing England was signalled by the fact that the home supporters inside Wembley were calling for Jack Grealish from the midway point of the first half, and they eventually got their wish with an hour gone as the ineffective Phil Foden made way.

But little changed. Scotland continued to hold their own, and Gilmour continued to look entirely at home.

With 15 minutes to go, his number was up, with Clarke going against his perceived safety-first reputation once again as he threw Stuart Armstrong on in his place in search of a winner.

For all of Scotland’s impressive play though, there was always that little voice of bitter experience telling the Tartan Army that a moment of heartbreak was coming.

But with this group, and with the likes of Gilmour at the centre of it, perhaps those days are past now. It may be time for Scots to think again about what their national team is capable of.