One of the positives of this rather inconsistent season has been the growth of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who beat out strong competition to nail down a first-team starting spot by the end of the season.
Chelsea’s hopes for a top-four finish were looking bleak earlier in the year, after heavy losses against Manchester City and Bournemouth, but Ruben’s introduction into the starting eleven as the left-central midfielder proved one of the catalysts towards much improved performances from the team that eventually resulted Chelsea confirming a Champions League spot with a game to spare.
Recurring back issues had limited Ruben’s playing time this season but ultimately his will to recover and get back to playing, to win the trust of his coach and his teammates, has reaped its rewards. Now the 23-year-old is hoping to kick on and grow and improve not only as a footballer but as a leader as well.
“Yeah definitely, but I think that comes with a lot of experience. I don’t think Chelsea can ever replace John [Terry]. He was the best leader I’ve seen, not just on the pitch but off it.
“He was always organising and sorting stuff out to make it easier for us. On the pitch he was very vocal and was that character you have at the back who would organise and make you feel safe.
“I’ve observed that and felt that feeling, and that’s something that comes with experience. The more experience I get, then hopefully I can be that person.”
Ruben joined the Chelsea Academy at age 8, in 2004, the year that John Terry replaced Marcel Desailly as captain and led Chelsea to our first league title in 50 years. Naturally, Terry became the ideal example for young players to follow, and the stories of him helping and mentoring the next generation are almost as legendary as his leadership on the pitch.
JT wasn’t the only leader around of course, but since 2012, one by one, the Old Guard have all departed, leaving current team to face repeated accusations of lacking leadership, focus, and winning mentality. Ruben knows that he will be counted on to step into the void as soon as possible.
“We look up to the senior guys in the squad, observe them and see how they act and see how they lead — especially Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. They’re two of the most professional footballers I’ve seen. David [Luiz] as well.
“But I think it’s time for us. Me and Andreas are 23 now. It’s not so young and we have to step up when we get given the time to play, and start to become really important players for the team.”
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: ESPN
Only one official game remains between now and the end of the season, the Europa League final. There could be few better sights than seeing Ruben ‘lead’ Chelsea to the winner’s podium.