Joe Allen: Midfielder says Wales now stronger than in 2016

Joe Allen leaves on a stretcher
Joe Allen made 39 appearances this season for club and country

Wales midfielder Joe Allen says Ryan Giggs will head to Euro 2020 with a stronger squad than the one that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Allen, who is out with a ruptured Achilles, admits he is relieved that he now has a chance of playing at a tournament postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Stoke player, 30, hopes to be fully fit for the start of next season.

"You could say the squad is stronger," he told Y Coridor Ansicrwydd podcast.

Allen suffered the injury in Stoke's 5-1 Championship win over Hull in March and underwent surgery.

His absence from Euro 2020 would have represented a big blow to Wales and Allen says the tournament was the first thing he thought of when the injury occurred.

"My first thought on the field when it happened was I'm going to miss the Euros. It was very hard to deal with," he explained. "I went for surgery and it looked like I'd be out for six to nine months.

"Everything was against me - missing the end of the season with Stoke with so much to fight for too.

"It's strange to say, with everything that's happened with the coronavirus, but it's worked out in that I've now got a chance to play in the Euros. Hopefully I can get myself fit and in contention to play next summer.

"I'm getting there with the injury. It's a slow process this injury, the nature of it. So I'm still not quite running but I'm getting stronger every day and hoping to be back jogging and doing a bit of running in the next couple of weeks.

"The general benchmark is the six-month mark which will take me to the start of September, so touch wood if all goes well between now and then, around the start of next season I should be back out there playing again."

Gareth Bale gives Joe Allen the Wales captain's armband
Joe Allen has made 56 Wales appearances and was named in the official team of the tournament at Euro 2016

A stronger Wales

Allen feels the national side now have better strength in depth than four years ago when they stunned most observers by reaching the semi-final of Euro 2016, their first major finals appearance since the 1958 World Cup.

"The young lads coming through are great players and hopefully we can help them to be ready for the games coming up for Wales," Allen said.

"Things are looking good for the future. Hopefully we can be the kind of country that qualifies for the Euros and World Cup every time we get the opportunity.

"It's difficult to compare [with the Euro 2016 squad]. On paper it's stronger.

"When you look at the clubs these players play for, Daniel James at Manchester United, you always hear that teams are looking at spending a lot of money to buy [Bournemouth midfielder] David Brooks.

"It's obvious to say but players like [Gareth] Bale and Aaron [Ramsey] still have so much to offer. So you could say the squad is now stronger."

Stoke frustrations on sidelines

Allen, who spent seven successive seasons playing Premier League football for Swansea, Liverpool and Stoke, is now powerless to help the Potters as they battle against relegation to League One, with the club currently just a point outside the bottom three.

Allen admits he is finding it frustrating.

"The lucky thing is for the first three and a half months was I wasn't missing any games. But now, seeing us back to business and not being able to be out there and help affect things is tough," he said.

"I've got full confidence that the boys have got more than enough to get away from the drop and the trouble down the bottom of the table."

What does the future hold?

Allen still harbours hopes of playing football at the top level, ideally with his current club. He also admits a move abroad could appeal.

"I hope to have more success at club level," he added. "We've had a couple of disappointing years with Stoke. We felt we'd turned a corner before the season was postponed, but after a tough restart there's still work to do to stay up.

"I'd love to be part of the team that eventually takes Stoke back up to the Premier League.

"One of my personal targets has always been to play 10 years at the highest level, which looked likely at one stage, but obviously there's work to be done to get there again.

"Even though I've turned 30, there are still things I'd like to achieve in my career. Getting back to the Premier League is one and the possibility of playing abroad has always been a dream.

"I'm fully aware that to keep my place in the Wales squad, I need to be playing at as high a level as possible."