May 23, 2018 / 5:06 AM / 5 months ago

'Secret Weapon' Loftus-Cheek says he can handle big stage

BURTON ON TRENT, England (Reuters) - With only two England appearances in his career and not even 50 games under his belt in club football, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will not be a known quantity for opposition coaches at the World Cup.

Soccer Football - England Training - St. George’s Park, Burton Upon Trent, Britain - May 22, 2018 England's Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek during training Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

England manager Gareth Southgate hopes the attacking midfielder, who impressed on debut in a November friendly against Germany, can be his secret weapon, and the 22-year-old says he is ready for the intensity of the tournament in Russia.

“One hundred percent I feel ready for it. I know how to deal with pressure. As a youth player, I played for England and got used to it and I have just to carry it on to the bigger stage,” he told reporters at England’s St. George’s training camp.

“I won’t be intimidated by any player or team, I think that is fundamental in football if you want to do well. I take that mindset into the World Cup.”

Loftus-Cheek is one of several inexperienced young players that have been included in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad and the tall midfielder believes none of them will be overawed.

“I think this squad is used to playing under pressure, most of us haven’t been to a World Cup before but for me, individually, I am just excited to play at the World Cup and I think if you enjoy it, you play your best football,” he said.

Loftus-Cheek is a product of Chelsea’s youth system but got regular Premier League football under his belt with former England manager Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace this season.

The Londoner doesn’t know where he will be playing next season but says he has to put that uncertainty out of his mind for the next few weeks.

“I am not thinking about that too much to be honest right now – I am trying to focus on this summer, this tournament is too big.

“I’ll be back at Chelsea in pre-season anyway and then I will decide when that comes along. I am not too worried it will get sorted when the time comes.”

Southgate worked with Loftus-Cheek during his time in charge of England’s under-21 team and the player says he enjoys the approach of the former Aston Villa defender.

“He has been there and played for England and so he knows what it is like,” said Loftus-Cheek.

“He has been in these situations, with his knowledge that he can pass on to us players, it is great for us.

“As a manager he is very good with players one-on-one and tries to help you as much as he can.”

If England, drawn with Tunisia, Belgium and Panama in Group G, are to provide a surprise run in Russia, it will require the younger elements in the squad, such as Loftus-Cheek, to deliver.

“In training you look about at the talent and it is frightening. I think we have a good chance,” said Loftus-Cheek.

“The squad is so young but so good at the same time. If we can deliver when it matters — and I think the boys can do that — we could have a really good tournament.”

Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ian Ransom

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