Nearly four years on from his last England appearance, the 26-year-old showed why he could yet make the World Cup squad
A quick quiz question: can you name each of the six players who played in midfield for England at the 2018 World Cup? Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, with their goals, perhaps spring most immediately to mind. Then there was the penalty that Eric Dier converted in the shootout against Colombia and the one that Jordan Henderson did not. That’s the easy(ish) four, but a special bonus prize to anybody who recalled Fabian Delph’s two starts against Belgium or the fact that when Alli was injured against Tunisia he was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who retained his place for the group games against Panama and Belgium and then started the third-place play-off as well.
It has been Loftus-Cheek’s fate to exist on the periphery of English football’s consciousness. His talent was obvious, a brooding grace encapsulated in a muscular 6ft3in frame but denied pitch-time by the superclubs’ habit of stockpiling players. It’s not insignificant that when he made his England debut, only eight months before the last World Cup, it was having impressed during a loan spell at Crystal Palace.