For the first time in 383 days, Ruben Loftus-Cheek started a game for Chelsea. You sense his next appearance in the Blues side will not be so long in coming.
Loftus-Cheek’s start against Southampton yesterday was a reward for perseverance, dedication, talent and sheer force of will.
He could have gone out on loan in the summer, he could have pushed for a permanent move away, yet
he has always wanted to reclaim his place in the Chelsea first-team squad that was snatched away from him in May 2019.
The story is well known. For those who have forgotten – or are simply new to Chelsea – Loftus-Cheek had finally blossomed into a key figure in the Blues’ starting XI under Maurizio Sarri only for an Achilles injury sustained during a charity game in the United States to keep him out of action for more than a year.
On his delayed return due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Loftus-Cheek was rusty. So he spent last season on loan at Fulham, who were relegated come the end of the campaign. The Chelsea academy graduate did not earn rave reviews at Craven Cottage, far from it in fact.
Yet all Loftus-Cheek needed at Fulham was game time.
He got that and returned to Chelsea for pre-season with trust in his body once more.
That was important.
The 25-year-old impressed in friendly matches but an unfortunately timed positive coronavirus test meant he missed the start of the Premier League season.
Still, he fought his way back and after an impressive appearance in the Carabao Cup against Aston Villa
and eye-catching cameos in back-to-back games against Manchester City and Juventus, he was restored to the starting XI ahead of Jorginho.