“Do as I say, not as I do” is a quip frequently used by parental figures to mask hypocrisy. Sometimes it’s necessary, as the receiver of this message likely doesn’t have the same means to assume, counter or cope with any associated risks. Still, it’s a lesson that hypocrisy can be excused if you have the authority to shove it behind a snappy eight-word phrase.
With this admittance out of the way, it is with the authority of being responsible for determining what word you read next that I must clearly state: Do not get excited about the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, as I already have.
It is unwise to place hope in an injury history with two terrifying words in it (Back, Achilles), let alone expectation. Yet I expect God or who-/what-ever controls all of this to realize they’ve been unceremoniously stingy with mercy recently, and to request a sprinkling on the remainder of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s footballing career, starting Sunday. Again I say, you should not be like this. It is unwise.
Do not be like me. Do not watch clips of his gliding runs through and around defenders, his repertoire of slick, tidy finishes, and — dear god whatever you do — do not this watch this effortlessly filthy skill against Manchester City on a loop. Be better than me.
I cannot stress this enough: My actions are not to be repeated.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is only one year and one month into recovery from an injury that just a few years ago was considered a career-ender. But he scored a brace against QPR in a friendly! You, however, should not read anything at all into that fact; you should instead remain cautious and calm, perhaps even skeptical. You should protect yourself, and not do what I do.
Learn from my mistakes. Do not think of him as the Paul Pogba we deserve. Do not consider that his 6’3” frame is packaged with a winger’s quick feet and acceleration. Do not perseverate on his ability to carry the ball by beating defenders with a dribble, or to split a press with vision and technique. Do not think about how a fully fit and in-form Ruben Loftus-Cheek is perfectly crafted for Frank Lampard’s system, which can sputter without a central player dangerous enough to pull defenders out of optimal positions. My experience does not have to be your experience.
I beg you. Please listen to me. It is for your own good.
When you know better, you do better. It would be silly to think that a 100-day pausing of the Premier League season would surely aid the 24-year-old in his recovery from a ruptured Achilles. To highlight the absurdity, consider the pre-suspension plan: which was, at best, to allow a few substitute appearances leading into the continuation of a strictly regimented offseason rehab program. Instead, every Premier League player is getting back up to match speed to resume the 19/20 season in the latter part of June. Presumably, Ruben has been continuing to re-strengthen and rebuild his damaged left leg, but trust me, it would be premature and maybe even stupid to get your hopes up. Though Chelsea are suddenly thrust into position to reapply a dogged grip on a top-four spot, it would be laughable to glorify the potential impact of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s possible return as that of an elite new signing. I’m telling you this so that you cannot use ignorance as an excuse. You were warned.
I’ve been down this road. Some men, you may be tempted to think, are meant to have it all. That there’s only the bitty matters of quieting a pesky back and making a complete recovery from a ruptured Achilles between intermittent cameos swiftly transitioning to world domination. It is too easy to drift into visions of a future where his impossibly handsome face graces every lineup card, television promo and social media graphic. You may even giggle at a world in which you purchased Toaster Strudels because Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked into a camera and told you to. You imagine complete overexposure, except no one in their right mind minds. This world seems so close, and your yearning may insist that it is just a handful of 90-minute performances away. Do not follow in my footsteps, it isn’t worth your pain.
I can’t make your decisions for you, but I can give you everything that I know so that you may make better decisions than me. It’s in your hands now. I can only hope that I have gotten through to you.