Ruben Loftus-Cheek can finally see light at the end of the tunnel as Chelsea midfielder nears return after 10-month injury nightmare… and boss Frank Lampard is ready to unleash him to boost top four ambitions
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek has returned to the first team fold after a lengthy lay off
- The Chelsea midfielder has been out for 10 months with an Achilles injury
- It’s been a long road to recovery for the star who has missed out this season
- Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is looking to use Loftus-Cheek in the top four race
After 10 months, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Loftus-Cheek has returned to Chelsea’s first-team squad and manager Frank Lampard is now just waiting for the opportune moments to give him the game time he needs to go from being fit to train to fit to fully match fit to feature in the first team.
It has been a long road back for the 24-year-old since he suffered his serious Achilles injury last May in Chelsea’s end of season friendly against New England Revolution, just before the Europa League final.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ready to put his injury hell behind him as he nears his Chelsea return
The 24-year-old returned to the first-team set-up after 10 months out with an Achilles injury
The cause was an important one, Chelsea using the game to raise funds for the fight against anti-Semitism.
Though that could not, at the same time, reduce the frustration at losing a figure who was starting to become everything Chelsea had hoped for as he rose through their ranks.
A long-standing back problem had hampered his start to the season but Loftus-Cheek was finishing the campaign strongly.
He forced his way into Maurizio Sarri’s plans, played an especially key role in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final, scoring four of his 10 goals last season in the competition, and was looking at home at the top level in the league as the predictions always said he would.
The England and Chelsea star picked up the injury during a friendly match in May last year
It was terrible timing for the midfielder as was imposing himself on games for Chelsea
Then his progress was cruelly curtailed in Boston as injury struck again. The pain was instant and etched on his face as soon as his left leg buckled underneath him.
The disappointment huge and the damage serious, a full rupture compared to the partial one suffered by team-mate Callum Hudson-Odoi just weeks earlier which allowed him to come back significantly quicker.
The worst case scenario was that he would be out for a year though there was also some initial hope that he could be playing again before 2019 was out. The reality has been somewhere in the middle.
There have been no major setbacks along the way, just an understandable desire to be back sooner than he has and the odd normal bout of frustration when progress in the bid to return from a serious injury doesn’t quite happen as quickly as hoped for.
Loftus-Cheek had made the breakthrough into the first team under Maurizio Sarri last season
A natural positive person who has overcome plenty already in his career, like his back problems and the battle to get in Chelsea’s first team, Loftus-Cheek never let things get him too down.
Instead he just got his head down and rehab work done, taking the process day by day and not looking too far ahead.
‘Not one day did he complain,’ one Chelsea source said.
Loftus-Cheek discovered he had lost a significant amount of size in his lower left leg when he removed his protective boot in the summer but there was never too many concerns about that.
The Englishman has been keeping fans updated on his recovery on his social media channels
The midfielder has been working alone for some time to recover from the lengthy injury
Loftus-Cheek has always been strong physically and big.
The muscle memory soon kicked in as he has stepped up his rehab, a process he and Chelsea have given fans a regular insight into on social media, and his injured leg reverted to the same size as his right leg.
Frank Lampard’s appointment was another mid-rehab boost for Loftus-Cheek.
The Chelsea manager has always been an admirer so knowing he was now in charge at Stamford Bridge gave Loftus-Cheek further incentive to get back.
Chelsea and Lampard have been patient with Loftus-Cheek, reintroducing him to training slowly, firstly with the under-16s, development squad and then first team.
Chelsea and Lampard have been particularly patient with Loftus-Cheek’s recovery this season
There is an acceptance that it will not be quick and easy for the midfielder to return to form
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is an admirer of Loftus-Cheek and will look to reintroduce him
And after an injury as serious as the one he suffered there is an acceptance from all involved that it will not be quick and easy for Loftus-Cheek to get back into full stride again
Lampard is eagerly anticipating his return though and with good reason.
The Chelsea manager has used every weapon in his armoury and repeatedly faced the same problems trying to break defensive sides down, create and take chances.
Unlike many managers, with targets to chase but the transfer window now closed, Lampard still has the option of one new addition to his squad to call on.
The one weapon he has which he has not used yet is Loftus-Cheek and, increasing the anticipation surrounding his return, is the fact he is so different to all the other midfield options Lampard has already tried.
Lampard is ready to unleash his latest weapon in Chelsea’s race for the Champions League
In fact, Loftus-Cheek is not just unique among Chelsea’s midfielders and arguably across the Premier League but also among the options available to England manager Gareth Southgate, who will also be keen to see the Blues star return.
Paul Pogba is perhaps the only other top flight midfielder blessed with the same combination of technical qualities and physical attributes possessed by Loftus-Cheek, both players being just as capable of producing a trick, clever touch or pass to open up a team as they are to simply run straight through their opponents or score from outside the box.
Loftus-Cheek did the last of those to good effect last season and Lampard believes he will eventually be capable of going well into double figures every season.
‘Ruben’s never been a rack-up-numbers man but I’ll definitely speak to him,’ Lampard said. ‘Can he get 15, 20 goals in a season? He’s got that in him.’ For now, Lampard and Chelsea will just be pleased to have him back.
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