After scoring his first goal for the club, Chelsea fans will be hoping that Ruben Loftus-Cheek can kick on and become a important part of the team this season and beyond.
The promising youngster replaced Oscar at half-time in Chelsea’s FA Cup 3rd round tie with Scunthorpe on Sunday. He scored the second goal of a 2-0 win, striking a nice finish low into the bottom corner to round off a great team move.
What will be most pleasing for all those concerned with Chelsea, however, from the fans to the owner, will be the emergence of a promising young talent from the Chelsea Academy.
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Introduced to the first team by Mourinho, but criminally under-used and even harshly criticised by the Portuguese manager, the 19-year-old from Lewisham, South London, may now be “let loose” by Hiddink, hopefully gaining more playing time over the second half of the season.
Possessing the power, strength and poise of players far older than him, Loftus-Cheek can now hopefully push on and develop his game under interim coach Guus Hiddink and beyond.
To be fair, Chelsea have never really replaced Frank Lampard, the goals return, passing vision and general poise in the centre of the park that the former England star used to bring arguably sorely missed over the last few seasons. And whilst Loftus-Cheek is far from a carbon-copy of the clubs greatest ever goal-scorer, he can bring some of the same qualities to this Chelsea squad.
One of Lamps’ best attributes was his ability to time his run into the box, often arriving right on cue to sweep/blast/tuck the ball into the back of the net. As was evidenced yesterday with his goal against Scunthorpe, Loftus-Cheek showed similar awareness and goal-scoring instinct when guiding in his 68th minute strike.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s unlikely to recreate the goal-scoring feats of Lampard – not many could – but he will be able to bring a steel, strength and ‘English heart’ to a midfield lacking, especially this season, grit, determination and much of a personality.
Taller, heavier and stronger than his much-vaulted predecessor, Loftus-Cheek has the potential to be a future-star for Chelsea. His passing is already of a good standard – he had a 100% pass-completion rate in his first start at the end of last season, although Mourinho never really let him fully express himself – but will only improve the more his confidence grows alongside his playing time. Other technical attributes are likely to improve, whilst his already impressive physical stats will stand him in good stead going forward.
If Hiddink can help guide his mental development too, a facet criticised by Mourinho, then Chelsea could have a genuine Premier League star on their hands for years to come.
Not since John Terry came through over 15 years ago have the Chelsea fans had a “home-grown” talent from the Academy to cheer for and how they would dearly love to see this youngster, a Chelsea fan since the age of eight, develop into a first-team regular. The owner too, who has pumped millions into an Academy for very little return.
For a side that has won four Youth FA Cups and a Youth League in the last five years, this has to be somewhat of a mystery and disappointment. If Loftus-Cheek can fulfill his massive potential, he could well be the shining light to come out of a turbulent season for the Blues, and quite possibly the ‘future’ of Chelsea.