After committing himself to his boyhood club for another five years with the signing of a new long-term Chelsea contract, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been looking ahead to what the future could bring for him and the team, starting with the early days under the new management of Frank Lampard.
The 23-year-old was urged throughout his teenage years in our Academy to analyse Lampard’s midfield game, with his coaches urging him to strive for our former number eight’s stamina, technical consistency and, of course, goalscoring impact. These are attributes that Loftus-Cheek remains determined to hone as he strives to become a crucial part of the new head coach’s plans.
Before reflecting on that willingness to work and improve, however, the England international expressed his delight at agreeing a new Blues deal that runs until 2024, a term that would take him into his 20th year as a Chelsea player.
‘I’m really happy that I get to stay here for another five years,’ he said. ‘It’s the place where I’ve grown up playing and hopefully I’ll be playing here for a lot longer.
‘At eight or nine years old, of course you never think you’ll be here for so long because you just want to enjoy yourself and play with your friends. When I look back and see how the hard work has paid off, it’s a good feeling. That only makes me want to work harder to achieve more in the future.
‘I hope to win a lot more trophies with the team and personally it’s just about trying to do as well as I can and work hard to be a key player for Chelsea.’
Loftus-Cheek hopes to learn plenty from working with our record goalscorer this term, while the promotion of Joe Edwards to the men’s first team backroom staff brings a reunion with a coach he has played under since the age of nine.
‘I’m really looking forward to the new season with Frank as manager,’ he said. ‘I watched him a lot in my youth team days and now it’s a great opportunity for me to learn and grow under him. He obviously played in midfield like me and scored a lot of goals from that position, which is something I want to do as well.
‘It’s exciting times for the club. I played with Jody a bit with the Under-21s [when Morris first returned to Chelsea at the end of his playing career] and they did so well last year at Derby. For them to combine their knowledge and experience with the youth coming through could be really interesting.
‘I’ve been training with Joe since before I can remember really. He was my coach for a number of years in the Academy so it’s exciting that he’s moving up in the game and doing well. Everyone is progressing and if we keep that mentality to keep going forward then as a team we can achieve a lot.’
An Achilles injury sustained in May ruled Loftus-Cheek out of the Europa League final and UEFA Nations League finals soon after, and his ongoing rehabilitation at Cobham means he will be absent throughout pre-season. However, he reports on good progress that has recently seen him come out of the protective boot he has been forced to wear for much of the past two months.
‘It’s going really well,’ he stated. ‘I’ve started walking now and a lot of the rehab is just about trying to strengthen up my muscles again, get strong enough to run and progress that way. It’s feeling really good but I’ll take my time and make sure it’s right for when I come back.’
Our new head coach has vowed to integrate more younger players into his squad this season and Loftus-Cheek remains the poster boy for that journey from Academy teenager to first team regular. It places him in a unique position to offer guidance to those coming through, a responsibility he is eager to take on.
‘I know how it feels to come over and train with the first team for the first time,’ he said. 'Hopefully I can help the younger boys in the sense that I’ve been through that process myself and any situations that are familiar to me, I can be the one to talk to them and give them advice. I want to inspire them to believe in themselves and hopefully one day get to the first team as well.’
While Loftus-Cheek aims to offer support of his own this season, it is the backing for him from the Chelsea fans that has cemented a special relationship, and the midfielder paid tribute to the supporters for constantly willing him on.
‘You have those fans who follow you right through and it’s great for them to watch my development as well, from the youth team to being a first team player now,’ he added. ‘They’ve always supported me and I can definitely hear that support during games so I can’t thank them enough.’
That gratitude certainly flows both ways and the link between the crowd and their homegrown hero now looks set to continue for another five years.