Ruben Loftus-Cheek has spoken of his delight at receiving his first England call up. In an exclusive interview with Palace TV today at Copers Cope Road, he revealed that he was made aware of his England call-up when his phone was “going off with [people] saying congratulations and well done, so I looked at the squad and I was is in it! That’s how I found out, and then I obviously got a text saying I was in the squad.”
He would soon receive a call from his father to share in the good news. “I’m delighted, really happy. My family are happy, but for myself it’s another step in my career which is just at the beginning.”
Asked which Palace team-mate was first to congratulate him, Loftus-Cheek said: “Ha! I forget - it was in the [Whatsapp] group chat and everyone was straight on saying well done – they’re a great bunch of lads, so I thank them for that.”
Turning attention to Palace, Loftus-Cheek is clearly comfortable in his south London surroundings. He said: “I’m really enjoying it. The lads have been great. When I first came in pre-season, I settled in really quickly and I was just raring to go to play some football.”
Loftus-Cheek believes this England call up provides further justification that he was right to choose a loan move from the Premier League Champions to Palace. “I knew I had to go away from Chelsea to start playing. I knew once I started playing, then things would go forward.”
The midfielder has started five of the club’s 10 Premier League games this season, with two appearances from the bench – and has been a stand-out performer. But with various injuries and ineligibility (against Chelsea) interrupting his flow, he feels the month ahead presents a great opportunity to build some momentum.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it [the next month]. I’ve been having a couple of games, then [picking up an] injury, couple of games, injury. I think it’s all to do with not playing regularly for two and a bit years. For me, it’s a transformation phase to adapt to playing 90 minutes of football week in, week out. I have to push my body through it, and I want to do it. I’m looking forward to this part of the season where I can get a few games in a row.”
Loftus-Cheek provided the crucial assist to Wilfried Zaha in the 97th minute against West Ham United last Saturday, which secured a point. Reflecting on the club’s disappointing start to the Premier League season, he said: “It’s been a tough start but we will never give up. We will keep going. As you saw in the 97th minute – we were still going, even from 2-0 down, we were still pressing and wanting to score. That courage and character to keep going to get a goal in the last minute, that’s what we’re about. We’ll take that into the next game.”
The next match is a trip to Wembley on Sunday lunchtime, where Palace take on third place Tottenham Hotspur who narrowly lost to Manchester United last week but put that to bed with an historic win over Champions League holders Real Madrid on Wednesday.
“I saw the game [on Wednesday] and it’s great for Spurs – they played really well. I wish them all the best in the Champions League, but not on Sunday! It’ll be a good game and we want to do well. It’s a great stadium, and we’ll get energy from that and give them a game.”
Should he feature, it will be Loftus-Cheek’s Wembley debut and with two further appearances possible at the national stadium this month with England facing Germany and Brazil in the upcoming international break, it is a prospect he is savouring. “I’m really excited – I haven’t played there before. The times I was there with Chelsea – I was either on the bench or in the stands. So to get an opportunity to play there I’m really excited, and if I can play there with England, that’s even better.”
Loftus-Cheek recently posted a training photograph on Instagram, alongside the caption: “Make sure I leave the training ground a better player #focused”.
He explained: “For me right now I’m just trying to work on my all-round game. Naturally you get better in training, but if you come in with the mindset of things you want to work on to get better and really focus on that, that’s my idea when I come in. I’m really working on my defensive side of the game –obviously being with Chelsea as a top four side, and then coming to Palace - it’s different football. With Chelsea you have the ball a lot, but at Palace you may not have the ball as much, so defensive awareness and positioning is what I’m really trying to improve [upon].”
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