Chelsea prospect Billy Gilmour has revealed that the sharp rise of the club's young players means it's felt just like he's been "playing with his mates" this season.
The 18-year-old is one of a number of Blues starlets to have been provided a path to first team football in the early stages of this campaign under Frank Lampard's tutelage.
Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have all nailed down starting places in Lampard's first-choice eleven, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have returned from injury and are already staking claims of their own.
Speaking exclusively to 90min ahead of adidas' launch of their Encryption pack, Glaswegian Gilmour said the rapid progress of the youthful contingent meant training and matches had been like a kick-around with mates.
"It’s like playing with your friends, obviously I came to the club when I was 16, and trained with the boys - me, Marc [Guehi], Ian [Maatsen], Tino [Anjorin] - we’re the youngest," he said.
"We go down to train most days to hopefully get an opportunity and when the opportunity comes he [Frank Lampard] has faith in us to go and perform."
Gilmour made his Premier League bow late on in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge in August, before seizing his biggest opportunity, playing the full 90 minutes as he bossed the midfield in the 7-1 win over Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup. He also featured for 70 minutes against Manchester United in the fourth round.
He continued: "It’s been really exciting, especially to get called up and travel with the squad in pre-season, and obviously making a couple of games.
"I’ve made my Premier League debut, which was a big moment, and then also in the Carabao Cup to start from the beginning and play the full game was very exciting for me. But the amount of young players in the team is dead promising.
"You’ve seen him [Lampard] playing Mason [Mount] and Tammy [Abraham], they’ve done very well. If you’re doing well he’s not scared to put you on and show the fans what you’ve got, and obviously that’s a good thing - your manager shows trust in you."
Gilmour was given that opportunity in a six-minute cameo against the Blades - but he says he wasn't fazed by the prospect.
"I wasn’t bricking it, I was excited, but obviously had the nerves," he said.
"It was surreal, my dream to play in the Premier League, to do it at home as well, also the score wasn’t the best but for the amount of moments I was on the pitch it was something to savour, definitely."
Lampard himself has said the Scotland Under-21 international has "lit up" training.
"Every training session Billy takes part in he lights it up with energy, quality and angles," he told Chelsea TV.
"He’s like an old-fashioned midfield player. I know modern midfield players do it, he’s constantly making angles, berating people even though he’s a young boy, personality in the way he plays, never scared to receive the ball. He’s got a really big chance."
Meanwhile, Gilmour's actual mates are following different paths, with others still in education and some playing north of the border.
"A couple of my mates are going to uni, my best friend Sam actually plays for a team in Scotland, he’s with the reserve team so he’s doing really well, he continued. "We just talk and sometimes just laugh about football, how we went to the same performance school, instead of doing geography or something we went and did football.
"We came up the exact same way and we just went different pathways, he’s gone to United and I’ve come down to London to play for Chelsea. I still speak to him about it and laugh about it.
"My mates come down here and say ‘oh, we’re going to London, we’re going down town’ and I’m like ‘nah, don’t really want to - just want to chill’ [laughs].
"But nah, it’s good when they come down, puts a smile on my face, something different to do instead of sitting in and playing FIFA. It’s not a bad life."
Billy Gilmour wears the adidas Nemeziz 19+, available at www.adidas.co.uk/football-shoes.
Chelsea face Ajax at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night in the Champions League, and Gilmour will be hopeful of getting more minutes under his belt.