It’s exactly a year since Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruptured his Achilles tendon playing for Chelsea in a friendly against New England Revolution in the United States.
It was a sickening moment, watching the Cobham youth product leave the stadium on crutches just days before the Europa League final. That match would have been the crowing glory of the season where he had finally broken into the first team, and more than that, had been one of the team’s best players.
Since then, the wait has been unbearable. The question has always been whether Ruben will be able to return and play at the same level he was at before the injury, and if so, how long it will take him to return to that kind of form.
He was back in training at the turn of the year, and by the time the season was called off, he had already played in friendly games for the youth sides.
In that way, this postponement of the season came at a terrible time – we were probably only a week or two away from seeing the fan favourite back on the pitch again, at the very least as a substitute.
Instead, we’ve had two months without any matches at all.
In total, the 24 year old is going to end up missing maybe 14 months of action – and that’s assuming the Premier League season is resumed at all.
That’s a massive chunk of time to miss, and it will be immensely difficult for his body to readjust to the demands of Premier League football after so long out of action. The fear is that it might never quite get there. He had long-standing back problems that had only just seemed to clear up, and we may well see those return as his large frame gears up for elite action again.
On the other hand, there will be advantages from the break too. There is now no question of rushing to get him fit for the final stretch of the season. Loftus-Cheek has had as long and as comprehensive a rehabilitation period as any player could ask for, and that Achilles should be in as good a condition as it will ever be in.
In addition, the fact that every player in the league has now had a sudden enforced two month break in their season means that they are all now in the same boat as Ruben in terms of immediate match fitness. No longer is he going to be trying to get up to speed with teammates and opposition players all fully firing and midway through a campaign. Now they will all be at a similar stage of base level fitness, and RLC will have the chance to build up his stamina at the same rate as the rest of the team when they all return to training.
In fact, assuming all goes well, he could be in line to be a starting player from the moment the season resumes. He could actually end this season with more starts than he otherwise would have got – they’ll just come 4 months later than expected.
So while his missing over a year injured can only be seen as a tragedy, we can at least hope that these unique circumstances of the last few months have levelled the playing field a little for when he does finally make his long-awaited return to action.