Swans and Dragons: Joe Allen

5th June

In a regular website feature, we look back at former Swansea City players who have also turned out for Wales at full international level.

Born in Carmarthen on March 14, 1990, Joseph Michael Allen was nine years old when he joined Swansea City’s academy in 2000.

As the midfielder progressed through the Swans ranks, he did the same at international level, winning 10 caps for Wales Under-17s and a further four for the under-19 side.

Allen made his first-team debut for the Swans in an FAW Premier Cup tie at Port Talbot in January 2007, before making a first league appearance at the Liberty Stadium as a substitute against Blackpool four months later.

He made 14 appearances in all competitions during the 2007-08 season, including six in League One as Roberto Martinez’s side lifted the title.

In October 2008, Allen joined Wrexham on a one-month loan deal, and scored on his debut in a 3-1 victory over York City.

However, his joy was short-lived as an ankle injury sustained during his second appearance brought his time at The Racecourse to a premature end.

Nevertheless, after recovering from injury on his return to South Wales, Allen put in a man-of-the-match performance as a substitute to inspire the Swans to a 2-2 draw – when they had been 2-0 down – against Barnsley that December.

He then endeared himself to the Swans faithful the following April with his first goal for the club in another 2-2 draw against rivals Cardiff City

Allen’s excellent form for the Swans during that season, in which he made a total of 26 appearances, was rewarded in May 2009, when he made his senior debut for Wales as an 80th-minute substitute for Jack Collison in the 1-0 victory over Estonia.

He played 22 times for the Swans during the 2009-10 campaign, during which he earned his second international cap against Scotland on November 14, 2009.

He was then a near ever-present as Brendan Rodgers’s side won promotion to the Premier League in the 2010-11 season, playing 40 times during the regular campaign as well as starting both legs of the play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest and the 4-2 victory over Reading in the final at Wembley.

Both Allen and the Swans adapted brilliantly to Premier League football.

Allen scored four times in 36 games as Rodgers’ men finished in a creditable 11th place.

Rodgers left for Liverpool at the end of the campaign and Allen followed for £15 million having scored a total of seven goals in 150 games for the Swans.

By this time, he had earned eight caps at international level and his ninth followed in the 2-0 defeat by Bosnia and Herzegovina days after he arrived at Anfield.

Allen had not long represented Great Britain at London 2012, playing all five matches as they reached the quarter-finals in the men’s football competition.

A wonderful 2012 on a personal level was completed when he was crowned the Welsh Footballer of the Year.

Allen spent four seasons at Liverpool, where he scored seven times in 132 matches, before joining Stoke City for £13 million in July 2016.

That move came just weeks after a memorable summer in France, where Wales enjoyed a fairytale journey all the way to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Having played in five of his country’s qualifying matches, Allen started all six games in their first appearance at a major tournament for 58 years, including the famous 3-1 victory over Belgium in the quarter-finals.

The Dragons were beaten 2-0 by eventual winners Portugal in the semis, but Allen’s performances earned him a place alongside Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo in Uefa’s team of the tournament.

He scored his first international goal in Wales’ first match after the finals as they beat Moldova 4-0 in their 2018 World Cup qualifier, and was also on target in the following month’s 2-2 draw with Austria.

Allen featured in eight of his country’s 10 qualifying matches for the finals in Russia, but could not prevent them from narrowly missing out on a place in the play-offs.

At club level, Allen enjoyed his best season goal-wise with Stoke during 2016-17; scoring six times in 36 appearances.

And the 28-year-old impressed again for the Potters last season, when he was arguably the club’s best performer as they suffered relegation to the second tier.