Loftus-Cheek can make his mark, says Hiddink

LONDON • Guus Hiddink has challenged Ruben Loftus-Cheek to put in the hard work required to fulfil his potential, after the teenager scored his first Chelsea goal in their 2-0 FA Cup win over Scunthorpe.

Loftus-Cheek gave a glimpse of his talent when he came off the bench to sweep home Cesar Azpilicueta's pass with a composed finish in the 68th minute at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The 19-year-old finished off third-tier Scunthorpe after Diego Costa had given Chelsea an early lead in the third-round tie, but Hiddink claims the gifted midfielder still has a lot of work to do before he is the finished article.

London-born Loftus-Cheek has been regarded as the jewel in Chelsea's academy crown for some time, but previous manager Jose Mourinho was critical of his attitude and rarely used him.

After pumping millions into overhauling the youth system of a club that has not produced a star of their own since John Terry, Blues owner Roman Abramovich is desperate for more home-grown players to emerge.

Abramovich celebrated in unusually exuberant fashion when Loftus-Cheek scored, but Hiddink made a point of highlighting both the youngster's potential and areas where improvement is needed.

"Ruben came in and he had a beautiful goal, not just in the execution but the way he prepared himself, and that was good to see," Hiddink said. "It's important he also has a hardworking role.

"If you play No. 10, it's a role where you can maybe get away without so much hard work, but that's not what we want. I start knowing these youngsters now. I can see the possibilities they have and what they have to work on."

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill, an England international, has backed midfielder Loftus-Cheek to replicate the progress made by Dele Alli at Tottenham Hotspur.

"I think he is a top, top player," said Cahill. "If you look at attributes, he's got all of them. It's just how he progresses.

"He has got everything that you need to become a top player. Dele Alli's rise has been incredibly fast and why can't he do it?"

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Loftus-Cheek can make his mark, says Hiddink'. Print Edition | Subscribe