Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink believes Ruben Loftus-Cheek can fight for a regular first-team place after the midfielder scored on his FA Cup debut in a 2-0 win over Scunthorpe.
Second-half substitute Loftus-Cheek made it 2-0 to the Blues after 68 minutes with his first senior goal to put Chelsea into the pot for the fourth round for the 18th consecutive season.
Interim boss Hiddink has tipped the 19-year-old midfielder to challenge for a regular first-team place after scoring his first senior goal to secure the win.
Hiddink said: “Ruben came in and he had a beautiful goal, not just in the execution but the way he prepared himself, and that was good to see.
“He can play on either side, but it depends how you play.
“He can also play when you play two controlling midfield players and one high on the midfield, he can play up there.
“But it’s important he also has a hard-working role.
“And if you play number 10 it’s a role where you can maybe get away without so much hard work, but that’s not what we want.
The Dutchman also admitted that he thought Loftus-Cheek was in his mid-twenties when he arrived at the club, and says the midfielder can be of “big value” for the Premier League champions.
Hiddink said: “We have these youngsters and I know them now after three to four weeks and I know their abilities and when it’s a possibility, an option I don’t hesitate to bring them in.
“It was a lovely clean finish. He waits, he waits, he waits and he comes in at the right moment.
“He can be of big value now. He’s 19 (but) I thought he was 22,23 when I came in, he’s a proper grown player already but he’s 19 – we have to be careful on the one hand and on the other I said ‘hey guys, get it done’ and we didn’t hesitate.
“We’re in a difficult situation to finish in fourth place in the Premier League, so I say ‘okay, give (the younger players) a try’.”
Speaking after Chelsea’s FA Cup third round win, Hiddink admitted his side could have finished the game off much sooner.
“I was happy with the result,” said the 69-year-old. “The Premier League is difficult to get the fourth place, but the other projects are the FA Cup and the Champions League.
“It is a decent result against a very strong opponent, especially in their set pieces.
“We started well, but we forgot to kill it off. It is good to be in the next round.
“We had high pressing, but we were a little bit arrogant in finishing off.”