IT wasn't quite the case of Billy Gilmour taking a step back. Now, though, he can stride forward for club and country once again.

A career that has been on an upward trajectory since he became a teenager was never going to continue on that uninterrupted path forever. That, of course, is not how the game, or life, works.

But the frustrations of recent months will not knock Gilmour. Indeed, they will only serve as an inspiration and a foundation as he seeks to return next term even better than before.

In hindsight, the move to Norwich City last summer was the wrong one for the midfielder to make and his game has not developed at the rate it was hoped or expected as his time at Carrow Road became a missed opportunity.

A side that were always going to be relegation fodder didn't play to Gilmour's strengths and he was repeatedly overlooked by Daniel Farke during the opening stages of the campaign. By the time Dean Smith was appointed, it was too late to save the Canaries.

Gilmour did, at least, benefit from the Englishman's arrival. He was given the game time that he needed, but being part of a side who were only heading one way was a testing experience and a player with a winning mentality, a natural desire to succeed, would have understandably found the going tough at times.

The experience will help Gilmour, though. It will make him more resolute, and even more determined, as he prepares to return to Chelsea next season and aim to secure his place in Thomas Tuchel's plans for the new campaign.

The contract extension that was triggered earlier this week has tied Gilmour to Stamford Bridge for another two seasons. It offers the 21-year-old security, but also an opportunity.

At every turn, Gilmour has proven his critics wrong and backed up the belief that he has in himself. For all the downs he has experienced in recent times, there is no doubt he will hit the heights once again.

It was said that he was too small in stature to thrive at the highest level and that he was making the wrong move when he opted to leave Rangers and join Chelsea in the summer of 2017.

Gilmour would have heard opinions that he wouldn't make it at the Bridge and that his progress would suffer as a result, he would have read the theories that the big-spending Blues wouldn't promote from within and utilise their academy system.

Five years on, he has achieved more than his detractors believed he would. Now he is poised to put that single-mindedness, alongside his natural talent, to good use once again and showcase himself as a Premier League player.

There is a tendency for players here to be talked up and then knocked down. Gilmour is not immune from criticism and comment, but it must be measured and justified.

Talk, for example, of him 'becoming the next Barry Bannan' was ludicrous. With all respect to the fine career that the former Scotland international has had, Gilmour is a class above and he has plenty of time on his side to prove it.

His next steps are crucial. At this stage of his career, Gilmour can no longer be considered as a kid and the same demands must be placed on him as those that are expected of more established and experienced team-mates domestically and internationally.

The potential and progress that has still to be unlocked will only be realised by regular match action next season. If that doesn't materialise at Chelsea, another loan move may prove to be the best way for Gilmour to kick on once again in the coming months.

Links with a return to Ibrox are regular but unfounded. Gilmour would be a stand-out for Rangers, but he is a Premier League operator and strolling through Premiership fixtures on a weekly basis would not be enough to ultimately earn him the place at Chelsea that he covets.

If Tuchel decides that Gilmour won't be an integral part of his squad, then Chelsea must find a temporary solution that allows one of their most accomplished young players to thrive and the choice of destination will determine whether it is another season of frustration or not.

A move to link up with former boss Frank Lampard makes obvious appeal and would seem like a sound theory but he will not be short of suitors at home and abroad. It was, of course, Lampard who gave Gilmour his big break and spoke so highly of him during the months where he established himself in the Blues midfield.

If he does head out on loan again, the style of the side he will be playing in must suit Gilmour's strengths. If he is given the ball, he will dictate games at that level and every Scot should wish their countryman well as he bids to enhance his reputation south of the border.

Gilmour will be the first to admit that he wasn't at his best during the international schedule that came to a conclusion with the victory over Armenia on Tuesday evening but he will still be a mainstay of Steve Clarke's side when the national squad reconvene in September.

If Gilmour is in form, if Scotland utilise him in the right manner, the fixtures with Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland will be easier to negotiate and the Nations League campaign should be a successful one for Clarke.

The praise and plaudits that Gilmour earned in years gone by were lavished on him for a reason. Those qualities have not diminished, that potential has not faded, in the seasons since.

Gilmour remains the most gifted player of his time, a once-in-a-generation talent who could be whatever he wants in the game for club and for country.

The ambition has always been to be the best that he can be. Sooner rather than later, Gilmour will silence his critics once again and prove just how good he is and will be.