Ruben Loftus-Cheek thinks Guus Hiddink sees him as first-teamer
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 23/01/16 10:07am
Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek says interim manager Guus Hiddink sees him "as a first-team player who can help the team".
Loftus-Cheek, who turns 20 on Saturday, scored his first goal for the club against Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup in January after being introduced at half-time by Hiddink.
And the youngster says he trusts the experienced Dutchman to know when to play him and when to rest him.
"I do not think he sees me as a young academy player, I think he sees me as a first-team player who can help the team," said Loftus-Cheek in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports.
"But being a young player is hard at Chelsea as the facts state that not many young players come through. But I will stay mentally strong and I think that when the time is right to play me, Guus will know and I trust him as a manager."
Previous Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho handed Loftus-Cheek his debut in a Champions League group-stage match against Sporting Lisbon in December 2014.
And the England Under-21 international says it was quite a challenge graduating from the club's academy into a dressing room full of superstars.
"We crossed paths a few times and they [Chelsea's first-team players] did come over and watch us over the road sometimes, so they kind of know our faces," said Loftus-Cheek, who admitted to initially being "quite shy" around the likes of Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres.
"And now I obviously have a better relationship with them," he added.
John Terry has been a massive help to me and every youth player coming through
However, Loftus-Cheek says Chelsea captain John Terry - the last academy graduate to become an established first-team player - has greatly aided his journey into the seniors.
"He has been a massive help to me and every youth player coming through, he gives advice and says, 'You've got to work hard if you want to get close'," he said.
Loftus Cheek, who caught the eye with an "instinctive" solo goal playing for Chelsea U21s against Liverpool in November, is expected to start on the substitutes' bench against Arsenal on Sunday.
Despite Chelsea's struggles so far this season, he is still predicting a testing examination for the Premier League leaders at the Emirates.
"Arsenal-Chelsea games can go either way, they are always competitive and physical and really good games technically," he said.
"It is a massive game for us and them. In our situation now we need to win, we are doing better and it will be tough for Arsenal."
With the champions currently languishing down in 14th place in the table, just four points above the relegation zone, Loftus-Cheek's second season at Stamford Bridge has been in stark contrast to his debut campaign in the senior ranks of the west London club.
The Englishman views this season's experience as a positive, though, saying: "It has been a massive learning curve for me this season, as last season I came into the first team and we were winning every week, the atmosphere in the changing room was always jolly and lively.
"And then this season it has been a bit more different, so that is good for me to see both sides and how strong and close a team has to be to get back to winning ways."
But Loftus-Cheek is adamant he and his team-mates will not let the campaign fizzle out, with Chelsea aiming to continue their recent momentum under Hiddink - who has not lost since replacing Mourinho in December - at Arsenal on Super Sunday and then on to the end of the campaign.
"We have to try and work hard in training as a group, stick close together and try and win games of football like we have been doing recently," he said.
"We have to forget what has happened and how we performed at the start. We play different now, are starting to win games and have a chance now to finish the season strongly."
See more from Soccer Saturday's exclusive interview with Rubens Loftus-Cheek from 12pm on Sky Sports News HQ.