In his first full training session with the U23s at Cobham after returning from his long-term ankle injury, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has suffered another injury setback.
This time it’s his knee.
As per standard protocol, the Chelsea loanee had come back to the club from Crystal Palace to treat the ankle injury that has sidelined him since the 28th of December. On Monday he was given the full run out in preparation for sending him back to Palace.
Instead, a day later RLC reported feeling soreness and tightness behind his knee.
“The news had been very positive because the session, in which the ankle was being tested, had gone very well. But he managed to pick up another very minor injury which now, of course, has to be treated before we get him back here.”
-Roy Hodgson; source: Guardian
It’s another entry in what is becoming an alarming medical log for Chelsea’s prize academy product, with this season just another injury-stricken asterisk for his young career.
He has a chronic back issue that kept him out of England’s U-21 Euro squad last summer and which struck again this season. (It also limited his availability for Chelsea last season and under Mourinho as well.)
He had the aforementioned ankle injury which at one point was thought might need surgery, but while it didn’t, it still required two months of rehabilitation and recovery work.
Now this. Out of a possible 32 matches that Crystal Palace have played this season in all competitions, RLC has appeared only in 17. And while that’s better than his constantly overlooked situation back at Chelsea in the last few years, it still feels like an opportunity missed especially as he had finally started showing true signs of rising to the challenge of Premier League competition.
Hodgson, who is desperate to have him back and doesn’t seem likely to ignore him if he’s fit and ready, is trying to put a positive spin on the latest setback.
“The good news is that the injury which kept him out for a long period of time – the ankle – seems to be much better. He is on the mend from that. But they now have to look at the minor injury [to the knee]. We are hopeful we see him back at Selhurst Park very soon.”
-Roy Hodgson; source: Guardian
It’s being reported that a sore knee can be a natural consequence of being out of action for two months. Unfortunately, with RLC it’s not safe to make too many assumptions about soreness being natural and unconcerning.
It’s also being widely reported that his series of injuries this season could put Loftus-Cheek’s place in the England World Cup squad in peril. At a minimum, it would be understandable if England manager Gareth Southgate were wary of entrusting one of his precious 23 places to a man who, although gifted and coming off a Man of the Match performance against Germany in November, has proven to be fragile. Southgate has working RLC at international youth level, too (and he’s assisted by former Chelsea coach Steve Holland), so they could still take a chance with the youngster, but he’s going to have to put together a strong last couple months ... and get back to being healthy first and foremost.
As it stands, Palace are hoping that Ruben is healthy and ready to play when Liverpool coming calling on March 31st. If he makes that date, it would give RLC the seven matches remaining in Palace’s schedule to prove to Southgate that he should play for his country, and give the rest of us one more reason to check match times in Russia this summer.