It’s not going to be easy to rattle Ruben Loftus-Cheek in his first World Cup. When he packed his suitcase for the trip to Russia, one thing he made sure to include is the same head-down, work-hard, expect-nothing attitude that made his loan spell at Crystal Palace such a success.
Trotted-out for the media three days before England’s kick-off match against Tunisia, nothing seemed to daunt the 22 year-old, who’s acting older than his years these days.
For example, he’s not bothered if he’s not in the first eleven on Monday. He only has four caps in his career but ‘team first’ is his motto, the same outlook that endeared him to Roy Hodgson last season.
“We might have to wait until game day (to find out who starts) but who knows?”
“Training has always been top level. No matter if it’s at a World Cup or not, training’s been really good and at a high level.
“We’re looking forward to the first game and I’m sure whoever starts will be ready and whoever is on the bench will be ready as well.”
Neither RLC nor Chelsea’s other England representative, Gary Cahill, are thought to be favorites to start in Volgograd. That’s not the only thing they have in common. Ruben says they want to dedicate this World Cup campaign to former Chelsea captain and coach Ray Wilkins, who passed away in April. Ruben was only 14 years-old when Wilkins coached under Ancelotti. But he remembers the man who played 84 times for England.
“All these games we play here and how far we get, we do it for Ray. He’s been such an icon for Chelsea and the game of football. I think a lot of players will miss him. For sure, we’ll do it for him.
”I was on something called day release, we left school and did some learning at Cobham, at training. I was about to go home and Neil Bath, the academy manager, said, ‘You’re not going home, you’re training with the first team’.
”I couldn’t wait to get going. I was obviously nervous but then Wilkins paired me up with Didier Drogba in a one-on-one drill. I was just really excited to get home and tell my parents.”
Two possible events lie in Loftus-Cheek’s immediate future in Russia. One is the chance that he’s on the pitch when England go to a penalty shoot-out. England are hideously bad at these. Since 1990, then men’s team has lost seven of them and won only one. The Under 21’s have lost two and won one. The women have lost all three of theirs.
But this is the unflappable Loftus-Cheek of 2018. He hopes he gets the chance.
“Yes, why not?
”They are those moments which take courage and heart. But I would love to take a penalty. They are a big part of tournament football.
“They are definitely a big part of training, they are making sure we are ready. We have been taking them every day.”
Source: Daily Mirror
The other possible event? It’s a sinister one. Teammate Danny Rose talked his family out of making the trip to Russia to watch him play because he was worried about racism. Some Russian fans are notoriously intolerant. Just this April, Russia’s football union was fined (a laughable low) €22,000 because of racist chants directed at French players.
Ruben’s father, brothers and uncle will make the trip and he says if it happens, he’ll take it in stride.
“That’s Danny’s choice. I’m not thinking about it too much. If it happens we’ll deal with it but, looking ahead, I’m just going with the flow.”
Unflappable. Unruffled. A team man. It sure looks like Ruben Loftus-Cheek has his head screwed on right as he enters the biggest stage in all of football. It bodes well for his future.