Following his eye-catching England debut on Friday night, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been a name on the lips of thousands across the country including his international boss Gareth Southgate who has ripped into the midfielder’s Chelsea teammates for blocking his path in years gone by.
Having featured heavily in Palace’s side since making the switch from Stamford Bridge to SE25 over the summer, Ruben has caught the eye of plenty regardless of our lowly league position, prompting Southgate to give him his chance against the world champions at Wembley last week.
After using him regularly in the under-21 set-up, I get the sense that the England gaffer has been itching to include Ruben in the senior squad for a while without been able to justify his inclusion, making his move to Selhurst Park the perfect vehicle to bring about a promotion.
Known as a man of mild manners, his comments regarding Chelsea’s treatment of Loftus-Cheek are genuinely surprising, highlighting a more direct side to his personality. Fans across the country have been aware of the difficulty academy products have had getting into the Blues’ first-team for years but to hear man in a position of such authority voicing his concerns so openly is refreshing to say the least.
Given a performance as impressive as Ruben’s on Friday, plenty of Palace fans are already writing off our chances of keeping hold of him permanently in the summer but I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the 21-year-old has gained more exposure during his three months he’s spent on or books than he did during his last three years at Chelsea.
Yes, they have a squad capable of challenging for domestic and European honours year on year but as Southgate has pointed out so directly in the quotes attached above, it is because of that strength in depth that Loftus-Cheek has taken so long to break through at professional level. Who knows, he may choose to follow in the footsteps of Nathan Ake and break away from his childhood club for the sake of regular football.
I’m certainly hoping he feels that way.