BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea face Spurs at Wembley on Saturday as the Premier league returns after the international break, with one player – Ruben Loftus-Cheek almost seeing the north London venue as his second home, such is the number of times he has been there with England.
Just over a year ago Lewisham-born Loftus-Cheek was man of the match in the win over Germany and has represented the Three Lions in the World Cup in Russia.
With England safety through to the semi-finals of the Nations League in the summer, just how has the attacking midfielder developed since he first came into the senior squad?
He said: “I am maturing as a player. It is important that I still try to learn, work hard, even when I’m away from Chelsea during the international break.
“I have fantastic coaches around me to be able to take things from them, whether I’m playing or not.
“I still have to focus on trying to get better. I think I have done that. Last season (on loan) at Palace was great for me, as a player.
“This season it’s about me learning on the training pitch as much as I can and every time I get to play it’s even better. That’s all I can do right now.”
The 22-year-old has yet to nail down a regular spot in the Chelsea starting 11 but is feeling more settled than last season.
“I think months ago, in the summer, I wasn’t sure what was happening,” he said.
“I wasn’t comfortable in my head. But now I’m at Chelsea. It’s not a case of being frustrated when I don’t play. I just stay calm, do things right, learn and improve as much as I can.
“I have to be patient which is the toughest thing, especially now I am 22 going on 23. I’d hoped to have had more appearances so it is hard to be patient. But it’s important to be patient in life, not just football. If I stay patient I’m in a better head space to learn rather than being in a frustrated place in my head, wasting time with negative energy.”
Head coach Maurizio Sarri said he was not going out on loan in January. Loftus-Cheek said of this: “Yes. It is good to hear him say that. I’m just concentrating on the here and now. A lot can change in football in a short space of time. I don’t look too far ahead.
“I have been playing a lot in the last month so all I can do is concentrate on that and see what happens.”