Ruben Loftus-Cheek has lifted the lid on the double-edged sword of a powerful physique blighted by chronic back problems.
The Chelsea and England midfielder has seen his return from long-term Achilles trouble delayed by the coronavirus shutdown.
Loftus-Cheek was inching towards his first action since May when the Premier League was suspended on March 13.
The 24-year-old has branded his latest injury battle “my toughest hurdle yet”, in an Instagram post revealing an engaging video feature on his recovery.
Loftus-Cheek tore his Achilles tendon in Chelsea’s Say No To Anti-Semitism charity match against New England Revolution in Boston in May, missing the Blues’ Europa League final triumph over Arsenal later that month.
Now itching to get going as and when football resumes, Loftus-Cheek has opened up on how he has to manage long-standing back troubles – and the power of positive thinking.
“My physical presence, how powerful I am, is my biggest strength,” said Loftus-Cheek.
“But my body is also my weakness. And that’s just what I have to manage.
“I have to manage my body, and that’s what I’ve learned a lot about.
“So it’s working smart, working hard but listening to your body as well.
“Be aware of your journey and pay attention to it.
“The mental side of being injured is hard; it’s hard.
“Going through the tough times it hardens you, and makes you a better player.
“I have to have the mindset of not regretting those things.
“I have those moments: ‘who would I be now if I hadn’t had those injuries?’
“But I have to counter that as well and say ‘who would I be without those injuries?’
“There’s a right way to think, and a wrong way to think.
“You have to practise, it’s a skill, to think properly.
“I just really didn’t want to rush (back from the Achilles injury).
“The hardest part for me (of being injured) has been actually watching the games.
“Seeing them play, and seeing them win, and lose in the bad times, that’s so hard.
“Playing for Chelsea, it’s deep. And that feeling of playing for the shirt, that really comes out when you’re on the pitch.”
New Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has handed out a club-record eight debuts to academy products this term, ushering through a wave of new talent in west London.
And now Loftus-Cheek cannot wait for the chance to line up alongside the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James, who have all broken through in style this season.
“The manager has always said ‘give players a chance if they’re good enough’,” Loftus-Cheek told Chelsea’s official club website.
“It’s not like he’s just throwing academy players in left, right and centre; it’s because they are really good players. They are helping the team win.
“Honestly, I’m so excited. I can’t wait to play with them, and share the pitch with them.”
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