The ex-Chelsea star grave warning Newcastle and Spurs must heed following major announcement

The two clubs will take part in a post-season friendly in Melbourne this May.
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Do you remember Ruben Loftus-Cheek? Of course you do, how could you forget that gliding midfield presence, the grace in his stride, the dishearteningly handsome face that has modelled for Burberry and, for a short while during the 2018 World Cup, helped convince a nation that football was coming home? Well, dear reader, this column is brought to you in association with The Cautionary Tale of RLC.

You see, back in 2019, shortly after the end of the Premier League campaign and shortly before Chelsea were due to compete in the Europa League final, Loftus-Cheek took part in a charity friendly against New England Revolution in Boston as part of the Final Whistle On Hate initiative. He lasted just 20 minutes before landing awkwardly, rupturing his achilles, and being carried off the pitch in obvious agony. Surgery would follow, as would a lengthy stint of rehabilitation, and, perhaps most cruelly of all, a watching brief as his side lifted the second biggest trophy in continental football, beating bitter rivals Arsenal in an Azerbaijani tonking.

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At the time, much of the discourse surrounding Loftus-Cheek's injury addressed the dull insanity of forcing an elite group of players into contesting a glorified exhibition match with such a significant fixture lurking just over the horizon. Five years later, and it is nice to know that Premier League clubs have learned absolutely no lessons whatsoever.

Earlier this week, it was announced that on May 22nd, just three days after the conclusion of the English top flight campaign and a mere 23 before the beginning of Euro 2024, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur will travel to Melbourne to take part in a friendly. For Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou, it will be a pleasant homecoming. For everybody else involved it will feel like a hybrid game of Russian Roulette and Operation.

The likelihood is that the match will be played at a snail's pace, a languid stroll beneath the baking sun that provides about as much entertainment value for punters as that Mexico vs Portugal friendly from The Simpsons - the one that incites a stadium riot. (Sean Longstaff holds it... Holds it... Holds it...) But truthfully, nobody could blame either squad for their probable reticence.

Both contingents will be brimming with international talent terrified of suffering a similar fate to Loftus-Cheek and ruling themselves out of this summer's festivities in Germany. From an English perspective alone, the likes of Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope, Anthony Gordon, Callum Wilson, and James Maddison could theoretically be involved in Victoria. And regardless of lethargy or relative gentleness, every unnecessary outing carries with it a certain measure of risk. Ankles roll, hamstrings ping, ligaments snap; it is an unfortunate and randomised fact of life, no reducers or straining sprints required.

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Of course, it will make both clubs a decent amount of money, and for supporters Down Under it will afford a rare opportunity to watch a glut of their favourite Premier League stars in the flesh - as slow as that flesh may ultimately prove to be. But given the slog needed to make it a reality, and the international tournament that follows so soon after, you have to ask, is it worth it?

Already, players are overworked by a congested, suffocating fixture schedule. The typical counter-argument to this is that these young men are paid obscene sums of money to play football, and play football they therefore should. But no amount of Lamborghini keys or Louis Vuitton wash bags will prevent the human body from eventually imploding. A lot of names on Newcastle and Spurs' respective team sheets will barely get a summer break to recuperate from the rigours of the season, and the brief down time they do have is now being eaten into by a trip halfway around the globe to impersonate the Harlem Globetrotters on a cricket pitch.

Some will point out that had either of these sides wriggled their way through to the FA Cup final, they would still have one more game to struggle through beyond the end of the Premier League campaign anyways, but there is a big old difference between a shot at silverware on the hallowed turf of Wembley and an Aussie boondoggle with a photo opportunity at a koala sanctuary attached.

To backtrack a touch, in the end, things have worked out okay for Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Now 28, he has rather fittingly found a new home in the fashion capital of Europe, Milan, and has arguably discovered some of the finest form of his career in the famous red and black stripes of AC. But if you could give the lad a time machine and the chance to change one thing about his time with boyhood club Chelsea, there is no doubting where he would set his coordinates for; Boston, 2019, to talk himself out of lacing up his boots for an entirely superfluous post-season friendly.