Returning from a serious injury is no easy task, despite the incredible advancements in medicine and the understanding of the human body, it’s still something that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Back in the day a great player would suffer a broken leg and that would mean the end of their top level career.
How many times have you heard the phrase ‘he was never the same again after that injury’.
It’s still true today, but with those advancements in medicine, players can receive specific instructions to help aid their recovery from a physical viewpoint.
Recovering from a mental aspect however, is a completely different story. Players that have suffered injuries such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s will always have that nagging fear in the back of their mind of doing it again.
That is what I believe to be the main issue that’s hindered his comeback and return to form that saw him as an integral part of Maurizio Sarri’s midfield alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.
He just didn’t look the same player on his return, understandable, given the severity of his injury.
Just the impact of that of his physique, such as his calves halving in size, make such a drastic impact it’s ultimately hard for a non professional to comprehend.
You could quite clearly see that something wasn’t right on his brief appearances at the start of the season for Chelsea.
Loftus-Cheek wasn’t right and when you’re a top club you really can’t afford any passengers. It made sense to find a suitable loan deal to afford him that time needed on the pitch.
It’s why I suggested on Twitter we perhaps look at a good Championship side to have him for a few months.
He’s not going out on loan to prove himself at the top level like he did when he impressed at Crystal Palace a few seasons ago.
We already know how good he is. It was more about finding his fitness and more importantly confidence.
The fact the move didn’t happen until deadline day suggested that the club disagreed and were hoping that a club would make an offer that included paying his wages, a la Ross Barkley to Aston Villa, but with that seeming less and less likely a deal was struck with Fulham.
(You might say he was loaned to a Championship club after all)
Fulham does offer him the opportunity to play, their squad isn’t Premier League level and his presence does improve them.
So far he’s started both games, completing 83 and 71 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United and the 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
An encouraging start from a Chelsea perspective, if not from Fulham’s.
Fulham’s close proximity to Chelsea, especially the two training grounds mean that we could, if wanted or needed, keep a closer eye on how he’s progressing.
Add to that Fulham’s manager being a former Chelsea player and team mate of Frank Lampard, things start to make more and more sense.
Loftus-Cheek shouldn’t feel like he’s been left out in the cold by Chelsea. This move is to benefit him just as much as it is to benefit the club.
More than anything he needs minutes to find his feet and that’s exactly what this move offers.
And if Loftus-Cheek needs any more convincing he can look to his Chelsea team mate Kurt Zouma for inspiration.
Zouma was just beginning to make his way into the Chelsea starting XI like Loftus-Cheek, when he damaged his ACL after he landed awkwardly when challenging for a header.
The injury left him out for the season and after beginning to make more of a full comeback he found himself out on loan, first to Stoke City and then at Everton where he again proved his Premier League credentials.
Chelsea’s transfer ban and subsequent focus on signing attacking players has enabled Zouma to make his way back into the fold and at the moment seems to be first choice alongside Thiago Silva.
He is a shining example that not all loan moves away from Stamford Bridge means the end of your Chelsea career.
Not that I believe anyone thinks that Loftus-Cheek is finished at Chelsea but you never know what goes through the mind of someone who is struggling for form and fitness.
Lofus-Cheek is a unique player, a midfielder who when fit offers something that not many Premier League clubs possess.
That build and stature that allows those driving runs through midfield and into the final third. A prime Yaya Toure perhaps or even a Paul Pogba when in the mood.
Time is still on Loftus-Cheeks’ side, and Lampard is a manager who believes in him and there’s supporters who’ve watched him develop throughout the years who also still believe in the talent they’ve witnessed.
Every minute played, every pass completed, every tackle made and hopefully every goal scored or assisted is a step back in the right direction and ultimately back to Chelsea’s first team.
Good luck Ruben, we all believe in you.