Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek claims he is eager to repay Chelsea's faith in his abilities after putting pen to paper on a brand new contract that will keep him at Stamford Bridge for a further five years. The 20-year-old academy graduate has gone on to make 13 appearances for the club since debuting as a late substitute during a Champions League win over Sporting CP back in December 2014, scoring his only senior goal to date in an FA Cup third-round defeat of Scunthorpe.
Speaking after his extension was announced, Loftus-Cheek told Chelsea's official website: "I'm delighted to sign a new contract at Chelsea and my focus is on working hard in training every day in order to push on and establish myself in the team. It really means a lot because this shows the club believe in me so I'm really happy.
"The club have done so much for me since I started here as an Under-8 and now I want to repay the faith they've shown in me with my performances on the pitch."
Chelsea have been routinely criticised for failing to provide a clear pathway for youngsters into their first team over recent years and whether or not Loftus-Cheek continues to buck that trend depends on exactly who is appointed as the permanent successor to Guus Hiddink this summer.
The England U21 international has featured four times under the club's interim boss, although appeared to be subject to something of a tough approach from predecessor Jose Mourinho. He was singled out for considerable criticism following a post-season friendly against Sydney FC in June 2015, with the player's former boss casting doubt upon a back injury while chastising his defensive effort in comparison to Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel and stating that their relationship had taken "one step back".
Mourinho continued that stance in the aftermath a Premier League meeting with Aston Villa in October. Loftus-Cheek started that 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, but was substituted at half-time amid subsequent claims that he needed to "look to the intensity and the defensive tactical work that people like Ramires, [Cesc] Fabregas did and he didn't". The manager further stressed that he had to compare himself to others in order to see why he was not kept on for the full 90 minutes.
Despite those issues, however, Loftus-Cheek looks set to be afforded more playing time between now and the end of the season.
"In the upcoming match games there will be options as well," Hiddink was quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard when asked about the midfielder in his latest press conference. "I have him in mind to start of course.
"We have analysed him in training and the way he has to progress. He is working on that and it will pay off. He's a young guy. When I came here I thought he was 23-24, but he's 20. It indicates he has a future. We are working on a specific plan and what he can improve on. It will pay off in the upcoming games. I don't give any guarantees but he will have his minutes."