‘Easy to keep Loftus-Cheek grounded’ – Hodgson

Ian Watson

Roy Hodgson will speak to Ruben Loftus-Cheek about managing the increasing expectations around him following the promising start to his England career.

The 21-year-old’s recovery from a back spasm will be assessed before Hodgson selects Crystal Palace’s starting XI to host Everton on Saturday, but there is little question interest in him has grown.

He excelled on his England debut against Germany and then showed his potential against Brazil until his injury during the first half, and since then his hopes of selection for next summer’s World Cup have been widely discussed.

Such recognition of Loftus-Cheek’s ability also comes shortly after his first run of first-team football in the Premier League, but Hodgson said: “That’s an easy thing to do. I and my coaching staff are quite experienced; a lot of the players are experienced, so it won’t just be me (talking to him). I’m pretty certain everyone will.

“Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a sensible young man. He knows he’s at the start of what could be a big career, and it’s starting later than maybe it could have done because it started in the shadows at (parent club) Chelsea, behind some fabulous players.

“But now here he is, with a great chance to be a key figure for Crystal Palace for the rest of the season, and really make a mark, and already his talent has been recognised by England.”

A wider concern for Hodgson – who again has Christian Benteke, his only senior, recognised striker available – surrounding Loftus-Cheek is the back condition that requires management.

He struggled with injuries before his summer arrival at Palace, and the manager, 70, said: “It’s a load thing. That is the ultimate cleft stick, because he does need to train, he does need to work with other players to improve his understanding, his knowledge of team play.

“More importantly he needs experience of games, to play. If you’re talking about managing loads, that becomes very difficult. At his stage, it’s not great if after games he can’t train for three or four days because you’ve got to manage his load, or if he plays a game he can’t play again for another week.

“That’s something you come across a little more often with players who are late in their careers. He doesn’t want to be that player, he wants to be available for every training session and every match.

“It’s something we’ll have to keep a close watch on because it’s back injuries, it’s not muscle injuries, not hamstring or calf strains, it is a back problem which is (generic). It’s not the result of an injury or a collision; it’s something about the way his body is and he has to manage it.

“We want him to play in the midfield and midfields need to be fluid so he’ll need to make certain that he can cover that midfield, front-to-back and side-to-side.

“Pigeon-holing him – that he can only be in this position – would take away a lot of the options that are at his disposal.”