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‘He has a fair way to go still’: Lampard managing expectations for Loftus-Cheek

Plenty of work before play

Chelsea Training and Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Ruben Loftus-Cheek joined first-team training for the first time in over eight months on Friday, but it’s important to not get carried away with any of that just yet. The 24-year-old midfielder still has some ways to go before he can even return to first-team match action, let alone return to his impactful goalscoring ways of before the traumatic Achilles rupture he suffered in May.

For head coach Frank Lampard, it’s another situation where expectations have to be managed, both his own and the player’s, not to mention the fans’.

”Of course, we’ve missed a player of that level and it is nice and put a smile on everyone’s face on Friday because he is popular with his team-mates too. A smile on everyone’s face to see him back.”

After such a major injury, great care has to be taken to ensure a proper and full recovery, both physically and mentally, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long and arduous process, even if you’re a professional and this is what you do for a living.

For Ruben, this will involve at least a full week of just training, then an indeterminate amount of reserves matches, before he’ll be cleared to play for the first-team. With Chelsea potentially facing some season-deciding game in the near future, it will be even more important to ensure RLC is fully ready, both for his sake and the team’s.

”It was the first day with us fully on Friday and it was a light session so that suited him. He has a fair way to go still, and I’m not pessimistic there. He just needs a full week training with us first, a tough week.

”Then he will need some U23 games, and again I think the break comes at a nice time for him to work and we’ll gauge it the other side of that break and see where he is. It might be too early [to face Leicester in the U23’s on Friday].

”The week’s training is the important thing because he hasn’t had that at first-team level. Then we will consider the games after that.”

It won’t be easy to stay patient. We all know what he can do, and what he should be able to do if he can stay healthy and play consistently. But we can’t rush it. Even if we could very much use him.

“I think you will miss Ruben; I don’t care who you are. You’ll miss his abilities. His natural physique, his ability to move the ball well and score the goals like he did last season, that has to be a big part of his game as well.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Goal

Loftus-Cheek’s Chelsea career has been largely defined by frustrating injuries and even more frustrating coaching decisions. He has fought through all those delays and sidetracks to establish himself as a first-team player against all odds — one of the handful few in the last two decades — so it’s unfortunate that he’s suffered yet another setback.

But we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s coming closer, slowly and surely. And it will be good.

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