Chelsea star Ruben Loftus-Cheek relives the moment injury struck, the recovery and training with Didier Drogba

Jack Rosser
PA

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has opened up about the process of the injury which has seen him sidelined for almost a year.

Before football was put on hold due to the coronavirus, the Chelsea midfielder was closing in on making his first-team return after a painstaking recovery from his ruptured Achilles.

The England international sustained the injury ahead of last season's Europa League final against Arsenal during a post-season friendly against New England Revolution. The friendly was arranged as part of Chelsea's efforts in the fight against antisemitism.

"There had been a post-season game arranged for a good cause," Loftus-Cheek told the club website of the day he sustained the injury.

"There was a guy behind me, I just felt this bang, the guy rattled me. He was saying: 'Nah, nah I didn't touch him!' And I was thinking: 'You liar.'

"The doc came on and said push down, and I just remember I couldn't, my foot was just hanging there. At that moment I was like: 'I've done something bad.'

(AP Photo/Stew Milne)

"I played most of my games in the Europa League from the start so for me not to play in the final, it was a big thing which hurt."

The 24-year-old, who had stepped up training, played 90 minutes with the U23s and was named on the bench by Frank Lampard before the coronavirus pandemic, suffered a number of setbacks during his recovery.

The key, however, was not to rush back and do further damage. Loftus-Cheek has struggled with injuries since his early teens, battling growth spurts which resulted in back pain as a 16-year-old.

Recovery and missing out on playing, especially with Lampard's refreshing focus on academy players, was a frustrating process, but one which - according to Loftus-Cheek - has made him a better player.

"That is the thing I didn't want to do. [Being injured at] 23, nearly 24, you don't want to rush something," he said.

"The hardest part for me is watching the games, seeing them play and win - or even lose - it is hard. I can't wait to get back.

"The mental side of being injured is hard, but going through the tough times it hardens you and it made me a better player. I have to have the mindset of not regretting those things.

"I have them moments [where you think], who would I be now if I hadn't had those injuries? But I have to counter them and think who would I be without [having been through] those injuries. I do think there is a right way to think and a wrong way to think and you have to practice, it is a skill to think properly.

"The manager coming in, he has always said give young players a chance if they are good enough. It is not like he is just throwing academy players in left, right and centre. It is because they are really good players, they are helping the team win. Honestly I am so excited, I can't wait to play with them and share the pitch with them."

Before Lampard returned as manager, opportunities in the Chelsea first-team for those coming up through the academy were limited, but Loftus-Cheek had caught the eye from a young age.

At just 16, he was invited to train with the first team after an academy session and ended up face-to-face with Didier Drogba.

"We had day release and at the end of the day we were about to go home, but we got pulled and told we were training with the first-team," said Loftus-Cheek.

(AFP/Getty Images)

"Everyone paired up and then Drogba was left. Me and Drogba. I ended up pairing with him and going man-to-man with him. It is like they've got a glow around them when you're that young and you're looking up to these players, [there is] like an aura about them - so amazing. Being at the academy so young is definitely special for me, I have got so many memories. Chelsea has a big place in my heart."

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