Frank Lampard predicted there is “much more to come” from Ruben Loftus-Cheek after the Chelsea midfielder’s return to action.
Loftus-Cheek started for the Blues at Aston Villa, where Lampard’s side came from behind to win 2-1 in a successful resumption of their Premier League campaign.
It was his first competitive game for 13 months.
Loftus-Cheek, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon towards the end of last season, played 55 minutes.
And boss Lampard is convinced the England midfielder will establish himself as a key first-team player.
“I’m delighted for Ruben to be back in the fold,” Lampard said.
“He’s got in the team on his own merit. In the last three or four weeks we’ve been back training he’s looked good and strong.
“We have to give him a little bit of time to adapt. But I felt it was a good game for him to bring his physicality and something different.
“He’s going to get much better. It’s been a long time since he’s played but he has so much to give us as a team and as a squad.
“There were glimpses of it today and there’s much more to come.”
Loftus-Cheek was brought off as part of a double substitution by Lampard, who sent on Christian Pulisic and Ross Barkley with the visitors 1-0 down.
The change quickly paid off, with Chelsea scoring twice in as many minutes to turn the tide in their favour.
After Pulisic’s equaliser, Olivier Giroud’s deflected effort clinched the victory.
Pulisic has endured his own injury problems – his outing was the American’s first since New Year’s Day.
Lampard believes Pulisic can be a regular starter – and goalscorer – for Chelsea in the future.
“I hope so. He was hungry and I felt for him, as I did for Ruben, who was in the same position,” Lampard said.
“I know Christian was very hungry. He’s trained well and the ability he’s got to arrive in the box is a big thing.
“I’ve spoken to him about that all season; the difference between being a very good player off the side as an attacking player or the players at the real top level that arrive and score in the six-yard box and hit big numbers (of goals) yearly.
“I really think Christian can do that, so I was really pleased with him and the impact he made coming on.
“He will start games for us of course, and I think he’s going to be a big player for us. Not just in this run-in but going forward.”