Ruben Loftus-Cheek is edging ever closer to a return at Chelsea and he has picked out the role he ideally wants to fill in Frank Lampard's team.
A new-look Blues side has placed greater emphasis on home-grown talent in 2019-20, with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori becoming key men with added responsibility.
Reece James is another pushing for regular minutes, while Callum Hudson-Odoi burst onto the scene last season and is considered to still have plenty of potential to be unlocked.
He suffered an untimely injury setback in 2018-19 but has worked his way back to fitness, form and favour over recent weeks.
Loftus-Cheek, who was sidelined with an Achilles injury during a friendly clash in May, is hoping to follow in Hudson-Odoi’s footsteps by reminding the Stamford Bridge faithful of his worth.
The 23-year-old England international is still waiting on the opportunity to figure under Lampard, following the return of a club legend to west London over the summer, but can see light at the end of the tunnel.
He told Versus of his recovery: “It’s going well!
“It’s been a long time and I’ve had a few setbacks as well. It’s never been just a straight path but I’m close now…I’ve been running and moving, I feel I’m right on the edge. I’m close and I can’t wait.”
Loftus-Cheek, who made his Chelsea debut back in 2014, added on being one of the first academy stars to make a senior breakthrough: “It feels good to be the one who led the way for the boys coming through.
“It’s good to know that the boys look up to you as you have done it before them…and those boys who look up to me will soon have younger boys who will look up to them so it all goes hand-in-hand. The more academy graduates in the team, the better.”
The emergence of Mount and Co may make it tricky for Loftus-Cheek to walk straight back into the Chelsea side, with it his preference to play a central midfield role.
He said: “I'm most effective as a box-to-box midfielder. Getting up and down, creating and also defending.
“I've played in a number of positions because I'm versatile so it's easy for managers to move me around. I played left and right midfield at Palace but I managed to do well.
“That's cool when you're coming up but as I'm maturing I kind of want to nail down one position and hopefully that position is box-to-box.”
Regular game time for Chelsea would allow Loftus-Cheek to work his way back into the England set-up, with a man who has 10 caps to his name eager to be involved with the Three Lions at Euro 2020.
He added: “I remember when I was at Palace and the World Cup was in the summer, I fractured my ankle and I was only back for six games before the squad was selected.
“That was a short amount of time but even then it was a target for me, so hopefully now I can get half a season of playing well and stake my claim.
“Obviously going to the World Cup and playing a little bit there helps – and hopefully playing regularly in the Chelsea team is the start I need to get back with the national team.”