Image:Football Soccer – Chelsea v Scunthorpe United – FA Cup Third Round – Stamford Bridge – 10/1/16 Ruben Loftus Cheek celebrates scoring the second goal for Chelsea with Diego Costa Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
LONDON (Reuters) – It was only Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first goal for the club, but the composed manner in which he took it raised hopes that Chelsea may have found the first home-grown player since John Terry to become a fixture in the team.
Interim manager Guus Hiddink believes he can make it and that others could then follow from the squad that has won’the FA Youth Cup for the past two seasons as well as the 2014-15 UEFA Youth League.
Loftus-Cheek, 20 later this month, also brought a smile to the face of owner Roman Abramovich as he took up a perfect position to meet Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross and then guide it into the Scunthorpe net during Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup third round win.
Too often the Russian oligarch has seen the club he bought in 2003 take the easy option and throw money at established internationals, by no means all of whom have justified either their fees or wages.
Young talent has also been recruited from all over the world, restricting the chances for local boys like midfielder Loftus-Cheek, who was not trusted to start a Premier League game until after the title had been won last season.
Training with Chelsea since the age of eight, his talent was recognised by appearances for England at every age group from Under-16 to Under-21.
But after being promoted to the Chelsea first-team squad he took a step backwards in the close-season, being singled out for criticism by manager Jose Mourinho after a friendly match against Sydney FC in Australia.
Mourinho picked him to start only once more before being sacked in December but Hiddink seems likely to show greater faith.
“Ruben came in and he had a beautiful goal, not just in the execution but the way he prepared himself,” the Dutchman said after the Scunthorpe game.
“It’s normal if you have this academy with investment in young players, you must give them some credit to develop. That’s one of the objectives of the club.
“We have these youngsters and I know them now after three or four weeks. I knew their names but now I’m working with them on a daily basis, starting to know them better, and seeing the possibilities they have — and what they have to work on still.”
Loftus-Cheek, brought on at halftime on Sunday and hoping for further opportunities in the busy New Year programme, is grateful to his new boss.
“I’m really pleased to play for him, he’s a really nice man as well as a good manager,” he told BT Sport.
Other youngsters like strikers Dominic Solanke and Isaiah Brown, having both been sent on loan to Dutch club Vit’sse Arnhem, are among those who will be watching his progress closely.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; editing by Toby Davis)
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