Ahead of tonight’s game against MLS side New England Revolution, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been reflecting on a standout season for him in Chelsea colours and also discussing the impact football can have in highlighting and tackling discrimination.
The Final Whistle On Hate fixture is our penultimate of the 2018/19 campaign, with the Europa League showpiece against Arsenal in Baku to come later in May.
For Loftus-Cheek, it’s been a season of ups and downs but ‘mainly ups’, as he told the programme for tonight’s game which will be available in and around the Gillette Stadium.
‘It’s my highest appearances figures for a season, and my highest goals and assists too, so for me personally it’s not been a bad season and a good step forward,’ the 23-year-old said.
‘I didn’t play too much at the start and I’ve had to do what I can in training and with the time I had on the pitch to make an impression. I’ve always believed in myself, but obviously the injuries I’ve had did hinder that progress. There was a period when I was doing well earlier in the season, then I got an injury in my back, but I had to stay focused and work hard, just so I was as sharp as I could be when I came back.’
Loftus-Cheek was certainly that, a driving force in our midfield in the latter part of the campaign. He has also added plenty of goals to his game, 10 so far, and he believe his instinct in front of goal is developing.
‘I think that’s come with the fitness and having more game time as well. If you’re fit you can get into those areas more and the more you play, the more your game intelligence increases.
‘Your understanding develops when you play more and I’ve always been one that’s wanted to score goals from midfield, so that will only improve the more game time I get.’
Loftus-Cheek has the chance to get some minutes in his legs when we take on New England Revolution in Massachusetts tonight. He has revealed he takes an interest in Major League Soccer, which continues to grow in popularity on both sides of the pond.
‘It’s not often we get to play MLS sides,’ Loftus-Cheek pointed out. ‘I remember playing against New York Red Bulls’ first team when we came out here with Jose Mourinho in pre-season. It’ll be great to play against a team like New England Revolution that plays in a league which is growing. Hopefully games like these can be part of helping that league grow.
‘I have had a look at MLS matches in recent seasons because they show some of the games on Sky Sports in England and when it’s on I’ll tune in and have a watch. It’s good to see because well-known players are going out there and helping the league grow. It’s good for that to happen because it obviously makes us interested in watching it as well.’
The reason for Chelsea’s visit to Boston is to help fight discrimination as part of our Say No To Antisemitism campaign, which culminates in tonight’s game. Loftus-Cheek has considered the role football can play in promoting equality.
‘This sport has a massive impact on the world. It is the top sport in the world and us players, through our social media accounts and everything else, can have an influence, so it’s important that we try to do something positive.
‘We are doing this for the right reasons – we can help send the message not just to the football population, but to the wider world as well. I’ve always seen players coming in from different countries, or different religions, and I think it’s good to embrace that and to be a part of it.’
The full interview with Loftus-Cheek is in tonight's programme which is free and available at the Gillette Stadium