Pick him against Brazil or he’ll suffer like I did
Iwas lucky enough to have a decent debut for England in 1979, scoring a goal and setting one up. And then I didn’t play again for the team for six months. It felt like I was starting all over again.
So I really hope that on the back of Friday night, Ruben Loftus-Cheek gets to play against Brazil on Tuesday. Some players shrink on their England debut. But he grew.
Now it is important he gets the chance to push on if he is to challenge for the World Cup.
It is great that he is on loan at Crystal Palace, though even there he is not getting the freedom to play that he had on Friday. They’re mired in a relegation battle and need to play a tight 4-4-2 with him on the right.
In September last year I expressed concern about his development. When he turned 21 last January he had made 26 appearances for Chelsea, just 12 of which were starts. By the time I was 21, in 1978, I had played 104 times for Tottenham in the top division and 102 of those were in the starting XI.
That is not because I was better but because the landscape was so different and young players were thrust into senior teams.
On Friday, given a chance, Loftus-Cheek took it. Had Neymar or Mesut Ozil played a couple of the balls he did, for Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier, they would have been happy.
He is more of a No8 than Dele Alli, whose great skill is his runs into the box and goals, playing off players. But LoftusCheek is better with his back to goal and he has quicker pictures in his head to make things happen.
He has a nice touch,
some flair and his passing and vision are excellent. But his height and range mean he’s decent in the air so he needs to start adding goals to his game.
If he does, he can be an option in a midfield three or further forward, maybe alongside Adam Lallana behind Harry Kane. Last year I said that we never got to see enough of him to know what kind of player he is. Now we’re beginning to see the real Loftus-Cheek. Let’s hope we get to see a lot more of him in the coming months.