With 38 Premier League games to contend with this season, coinciding with a decade under the ownership of CPFC 2010, The Eagles Beak will take a look at 38 Crystal Palace cult heroes from the last 10 years.
If you consider yourself to be a ‘stat-man’, then perhaps you would consider this particular player to be anything but a cult hero for Crystal Palace Football Club.
After all, the then 21-year-old midfielder only managed 25 appearances for the Eagles in all competitions across a single campaign, scoring just two goals.
However, for those engulfed by all things SE25, you know that icons in South London are not born through mere numbers, but presence. A sheer presence, an aura that surrounds them as they strut their stuff on the Selhurst green.
The summer of 2017 saw Palace boss Frank de Boer (remember that guy?) make one of few good decisions in his brief stint at the club by bringing in a promising talent from our London rivals to the West on a season-long loan.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek arrived with much anticipation. The first signing in the De Boer era (however short-lived) certainly drew excitement from the Palace faithful, who couldn’t wait to see how the midfielder would compliment the gap between the middle of the park and our centre-forwards.
“I had the option of coming to Palace and I thought that it would be great for me,” Loftus-Cheek said at the time.
“I live not too far away, I was born in Lewisham and Palace is good club so I thought it’s a good chance to play here and be a part of the team. They have a very strong team and I’d like to be a part of that this season.”
Loftus-Cheek made his debut on the opening day of the season, but that didn’t exactly go to plan. A 3-0 home defeat to newly promoted Huddersfield Town left Palace in dire straights almost from the off.
As we all know, things only got worse from there. Palace lost lots. Scored little. Said goodbye to Frank and hello to Roy in a bid to achieve Premier League survival.
Ironically, the club’s first Premier League win of the season came against Loftus-Cheek’s parent club Chelsea, Palace’s eighth game of the season.
But enough about Palace, how was Loftus-Cheek successful despite this terrible start?
Anyone who saw him play that season saw a man who could glide past players like they weren’t there.
His link-up play with the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, his spacial awareness alongside Yohan Cabaye and James McCarthur, all culminated in a player that could seemingly do it all.
In terms of numbers, Loftus-Cheek got his first assist of the season at home to West Ham United, where a berated Zaha silenced the away support to score Palace’s second of the afternoon in the 97th minute, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw.
His first goal came just three games later in a 2-1 victory at home to Stoke City, converting from close range to draw Palace level.
His form – coinciding with the club’s – continued to improve and under Hodgson, Loftus-Cheek was one of the first names on the team sheet.
In fact, Hodgson admired the midfielder so much that since the end of his loan spell, the Palace boss has attempted to bring the player back to Selhurst once again, but to no avail.
“We’d love to have him back,” he told The Jim White Show in 2018. “There is no question about that but that is something which is totally and utterly in Chelsea’s hands.
“I have no idea what their plans for Ruben are. They haven’t announced to us what their plans are and I’ve seen nothing written publicly but Ruben knows how much we appreciate him and how pleased we were with him, and the fans took to him very much.
“If he was available on loan I am pretty sure we would be knocking their door down to get him.”
Arguably Loftus-Cheek’s most consistent run of form came in the latter stages of the 17/18 Premier League season for Palace.
With Hodgson performing miracles and eventually confirming the club’s status as a top-flight club for another season at the tail end of the campaign, his side’s performances seemed to flourish and showcase a confidence that had been absent for a big part of the season.
Losing just one out of the final eight games – a narrow 2-1 defeat against Liverpool – Palace beat the likes of Huddersfield, Brighton & Hove Albion, Stoke City and West Brom to edge ahead of their relegation rivals.
However, it was in Palace’s home match against former Premier League champions Leicester City where we saw one of the greatest performances in the CPFC 2010 era.
A whopping 5-0 victory against the Foxes not only saw the Chelsea loanee star in an attacking position that demolished the Leicester defence but also saw him net the club’s third of the afternoon, with a cool finish past Kasper Schmeichel at the Holmesdale End.
It seems almost a waste that Loftus-Cheek was part of a Palace side who had to concentrate on survival rather than have any burning ambitions to achieve something greater.
But it can be said that without the sterling efforts of the midfielder, Palace might not have overcome the misfortunes of that season so convincingly.
Loftus-Cheek’s dedication to the cause really endeared him to the Palace faithful. A memory springs to mind of the squad doing a lap of honour on the final home game of the season, only for the entire stadium to chant ‘sign him up, sign him up’, much to the appreciation of the young talent.
An England call-up soon followed.
However, Loftus-Cheek has struggled with injuries over the last few campaigns back at his parent club Chelsea.
He has only made eight Premier League appearances for the Blues across the past two seasons and has been linked with a move away from the club before the transfer window closes this month.
Injury concerns aside, if there was ever a chance that he could make a return to south London, there would be few supporters who would sneer at the idea.
After all, he was recently voted as the ‘former loanee Palace fans wished they could have back’, even beating world-class left-back Ashley Cole.
Reflecting on his time at Selhurst, Loftus-Cheek said: “To be at a team [Chelsea] that was winning every week to a team that was fighting in games where you wouldn’t have much possession, I actually really enjoyed being an underdog.”
If he fancies another challenge, he knows where we are…
What are you favourite memories of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s time at Crystal Palace? Let us know!