Ruben Loftus-Cheek believes Chelsea’s exciting young squad are capable of competing for major honours in the near future, with the 24-year-old hoping to aid that cause.
The England international was closing in on a return to action before English football shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A serious Achilles problem has kept him stuck on the sidelines for 12 months, with Frank Lampard yet to be put in a position where he can call upon another home-grown star.
Loftus-Cheek has, however, worked hard to get himself back to full fitness and intends to be in contention for minutes whenever a green light is given for the Premier League to resume in 2020.
He told Chelsea’s official website: “I was back training before lockdown but only just so I’ve been doing a lot of what the other boys have been doing, general fitness stuff, but I’ve also had some individual responsibilities to keep my Achilles in check, just to stop any further injuries. It’s been calf workouts and stuff like that, just keeping my body strong for whenever we go back.”
The highly-rated midfielder added on his injury struggles: “It was frustrating for sure.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work into getting fit and had just finished what was kind of like my pre-season. I was training with the group and then doing my own stuff afterwards with the fitness coaches, which was really hard trying to get fit to play as quickly as possible.
“I’d been doing that for weeks and weeks and started to feel like I was very close but then lockdown came. It was frustrating but that’s life - I’ve just had to carry on keeping fit by myself.
“At the start of the season, I was still injured and at the start of my rehab but I didn’t know it would go on for so long.
“I thought it would be quicker so I had in my head if I can get back around midway through the season then I can hopefully build up my fitness and be sharp to be in contention for the Euros.
“Obviously it didn’t happen like that and it took me a long while to feel good in my body after my injury and have the confidence. Having the tournament next summer now is a good opportunity for me to stay injury-free, stay healthy and try to play my best football for when the time comes.”
In his absence, Chelsea have seen a number of fellow academy graduates star on a senior stage.
With the foundations for long-term success being laid by the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek believes Lampard’s side will soon be competing for the Premier League title and other notable trophies.
He said: “The young boys have done really well so credit to them.
“They’ve shown that they can play at this level and help the team win. The gaffer always said he would play academy players but they have to be doing well to play. That’s really encouraging for the youngsters coming through the academy in the future that they have a gaffer who’s willing to play them if they show they can play at the level.
“The whole squad have done really well this season, especially having no new players coming in and the team being very young. Considering those things and a new manager with new tactics and a new way of playing, we’ve done really well to be where we are at the moment.
“We’ve had times on the pitch where we know ourselves that we need to improve but that’s just football and if we can improve on what we’ve talked about as a collective then we could really be a team that’s in contention for titles in the future.”