Fearless Loftus-Cheek ready to step up for England

Despite his lack of international experience, Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is itching to prove himself at the Russia World Cup.
Despite his lack of international experience, Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is itching to prove himself at the Russia World Cup.

LONDON • With only two England appearances in his career and not even 50 Premier League games under his belt, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be an unknown quantity for opposition coaches at the World Cup.

But England manager Gareth Southgate hopes the 22-year-old Chelsea midfielder, who impressed on his debut in last November's 0-0 friendly draw against Germany, can be his secret weapon.

And Loftus-Cheek says he is ready for the intensity of the tournament in Russia.

"One hundred per cent I feel ready. I know how to deal with pressure. As a youth player, I played for England and got used to it. I just have to carry it onto the bigger stage," he told reporters at England's St George's training camp.

"I won't be intimidated by any player or team, that is fundamental in football if you want to do well. I take that mindset into the World Cup."

He is one of several inexperienced young players in the squad but he believes none of them will be overawed.

"This squad is used to playing under pressure, most of us haven't been to a World Cup before but for me, individually, I am just excited to play at the World Cup and, if you enjoy it, you play your best football," he added.

Loftus-Cheek is a product of the Blues' youth system, but spent last season with former England manager Roy Hodgson on loan at Crystal Palace. While he does not know where he will be playing next season, he knows that uncertainty has to be put out of his mind for the time being.

"I am not thinking about that too much to be honest right now - I am trying to focus on this summer, this tournament is too big. I'll be back at Chelsea in pre-season anyway and then I will decide when that comes along. It will get sorted when the time comes."

Southgate worked with Loftus-Cheek during his time in charge of England's Under-21 team and he revealed the former Aston Villa defender has been a guiding hand.

"He has been there and played for England and so he knows what it is like," said Loftus-Cheek. "As a manager, he is very good with players one-on-one and tries to help you as much as he can."

If England, drawn with Tunisia, Belgium and Panama in Group G, are to provide a surprise run, it will require the younger members in the squad, such as Loftus-Cheek, 20-year-old Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and uncapped Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19, to deliver.

"In training, you look about at the talent and it is frightening. I think we have a good chance," Loftus-Cheek added.

"The squad is so young but so good at the same time. If we can deliver when it matters - and the boys can do that - we could have a really good tournament."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'Fearless Loftus-Cheek ready to step up for England'. Print Edition | Subscribe