Could Joe Allen return?
Posted by Matt Walters | Published on February 27, 2016
Joe Allen was born in 1990 in Carmarthen, just North-West of Swansea and deep into rugby territory. His family moved to Pembrokeshire and he attended a Welsh-medium school. At the age of 9, he signed for then third division side Swansea City. He was part of the youth academy for 8 years during a time when Swansea went through new managers like there was no tomorrow but it was Kenny Jackett who gave him his first-team debut in the FAW Cup fixture against affiliate club Port Talbot Town.
He made his League 1 debut under former captain and new manager, Roberto Martinez, from the bench for Andy Robinson in a 6-3 defeat to Blackpool in 2007. Swansea narrowly missed out on the play-offs that season but would dominate the league next season, finishing with 92 points; 10 clear of second-placed Nottingham Forest, 8 defeats and a glittering 25 game unbeaten run and talisman Jason Scotland scoring 24 league goals. Allen made 6 appearences in the league this season and 14 in all competitions and received his first professional contract in August.
As Swansea returned to the second-tier of English football, Allen struggled for game time due to the depth in midfield, with Darren Pratley, Ferrie Bodde, Owain Tudur Jones, Jordi Gómez and Leon Britton all ahead of him in that position. As a result, he was loaned out to non-league Wrexham in October 2008 where he scored from 25 yards on his debut. He was injured in his next game and returned to Swansea. Having recovered by December, the club opted not to loan him out again as Dutchman and Swansea icon Bodde had been ruled out for the rest of the season. On his return to the squad against Barnsley, he watched Swansea play awfully and go two goals down. On the 65th minute he replaced Owain Tudur Jones and earned a man of the match award as the team rallied to a 2-2 draw. In April 2008, Swansea went away to their rivals Cardiff in the last South Wales derby to be played at Ninian Park. Nathan Dyer; on loan from Southampton, put Swansea ahead with his first goal for the club after good play between himself and Jason Scotland, Michael Chopra then equalised for the Bluebirds. In the 89th minute, Joe Allen received the ball outside the box and hammered the ball with a low drive past Tom Heaton to score his first goal for Swansea and jump into the away end. It appeared to win the game but the referee awarded Cardiff a penalty which seemed questionable. Ross McCormack equalised in stoppage time to end Swansea’s hopes of consecutive promotions. Allen was rewarded with a 3-year contract, expiring in June 2012. He made his Wales debut at the end of the season against Estonia.
Allen was injured for much of the 2009-10 season and Martinez departed the club under controversial circumstances. Youngster Besian Idrizaj died of a heart attack while on international duty with Austria. The news created shockwaves across the city and the team. He returned to the team for a successful 2010-11 campaign in which Brendan Rodgers replaced Paulo Souza as manager and sealed promotion to the top-flight via the play-offs. Allen was a regular this season alongside Darren Pratley and Leon Britton and started against Cardiff City, earning man of the match once again as Swansea won 1-0. He scored two goals throughout the season and started the play-off final alongside Steven Dobbie and Leon Britton in midfield. After a penalty and a tap-in by Scott Sinclair and a drive from outside the box by Steven Dobbie, Swansea took a 3-0 lead into half-time. Noel Hunt flicked a header onto Allen’s scalp and it deflected into his own net. Matt Mills turned in a corner to make the end of the match very nervous for Swansea. Scott Sinclair was the hero, however, converting his second penalty as Fabio Borini was fouled in the box to give Sinclair a historic hat trick and Swansea promotion to the top flight.
In 2011-12, Joe Allen starred for Swansea having recently signed a contract until 2015. He scored 4 goals and missed only two games as Swansea finished 11th. His form saw him win Welsh player of the year, a role in Great Britain’s Olympic football team and most notably, a £15m move to Liverpool, now managed by Rodgers. Roberto Martinez was full of praise for him after his transfer, comparing him to Pep Guardiola and saying he knew from a young age that Allen was destined for the very top. Rodgers dubbed Allen “The Welsh Xavi” but he would not enjoy success at Liverpool despite being named their player of the month for August. He didn’t score a league goal until April 2014 against Crystal Palace only for Palace to claim a stunning 3-3 draw in a match now dubbed “Crystanbul”. He was berated by fans for missing a sitter against rivals Everton and often criticised for failing to justify his £15m price tag.
Only in 2015-16 did he show some form. He captained a resurgent Wales side; newly qualified for Euro 16, after Ashley Williams was substituted against Danny Blind’s Netherlands. Without Aaron Ramsey or Gareth Bale, and despite Allen’s missed penalty (which was turned in by Joe Ledley) Wales were very narrowly beaten in a game that ended 3-2. In January 2016 Swansea, now struggling, are said to have enquired for their former talisman only for Klopp’s Liverpool to tell them to come back in the Summer. In the next game Allen claimed a dramatic stoppage time equaliser against leaders Arsenal in a 3-3 draw. He also scored the winning penalty in a shootout at Anfield in the League Cup semi-final against Stoke, blasting the ball into the top right corner of Jack Butland’s goal. Despite his form, Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin said that he showed clips of Rodgers’s Swansea to his Udinese side and claimed that he liked Allen’s midfield partnership with Leon Britton; sparking rumours of a heroic return to repair a broken Swansea midfield. These rumours intensified when vice-captain Britton claimed that his old friend missed Swansea, the club and city where he had spent 13 years. If Swansea remain a Premier League club by the end of the season, they will receive a staggering amount of money thanks to a new TV deal. With this money, it is incredibly likely that Swansea will be willing to spend on the midfielder. Especially as Jurgen Klopp will surely have an Exodus of players to rebuild an English superpower at Liverpool. Perhaps the Pembrokeshire Pirlo will come home.