Sport Soccer

Thursday 19 September 2019

Hodgson backs Loftus-Cheek to cope with increased attention

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left, impressed in England's November friendlies against Germany and Brazil
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left, impressed in England's November friendlies against Germany and Brazil

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is confident Ruben Loftus-Cheek's impressive displays for England will not affect his focus at club level.

The 21-year-old is fighting to overcome a back spasm in order to line up for the Eagles at home to Everton on Saturday.

It would be his first club appearance since excelling on his senior international debut against Germany and making a promising start against Brazil before being substituted through injury.

His emergence has sparked optimism surrounding his England future and questions over why Chelsea were willing to loan him to Palace, but Hodgson was not the least bit surprised at how well Loftus-Cheek had performed.

"He's a quality player," the former England manager said.

"It was good he got the opportunity and very good he took the opportunity. When a young player comes into the team, makes his debut and does well, he sometimes gets praised to the skies and we're very good at praising people to knock them down very quickly afterwards.

"I hope that won't affect him. I don't think it will.

"He's a very composed and sensible young man. He knows he played well but he also knows there's a lot of work to do before he can really call himself a top-class international player.

Asked if he would be ready for next summer's World Cup finals, Hodgson replied: "Why wouldn't he be ready?

"He is older than a lot of players who came with me in 2014 and (to the European Championship in) 2016 and they did well enough.

"The important thing for (Palace) is that he plays and helps us do well and I am convinced that if that happens he'll be a contender for Gareth Southgate."

Regardless of Loftus-Cheek's condition, Hodgson is ready to select Christian Benteke - his only recognised, senior striker - to start against Everton after confirming his availability.

He has been absent since suffering a knee injury in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City in September, but the manager insists selecting him does not represent a risk after watching him train.

Full-back Patrick van Aanholt remains absent with a hamstring injury, and midfielders Jordon Mutch and Lee Chung-yong have knocks, but Hodgson said: "We're hoping Benteke can play a big part for us going forward.

"Don't forget he hasn't played for seven weeks, but it's good that he is physically fit to play. I don't think it would be a risk playing him. Not at all. He's had three good training sessions and he worked very hard before he joined us to make certain he was 100 per cent ready to join us, so I don't have any fears for him."

PA Media

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