Euros hold no fear for Allen

Wales' Joe Allen and Joe Ledley (right) in action during a training session
Wales' Joe Allen and Joe Ledley (right) in action during a training session

Joe Allen headed to the tattoo parlour in April for a spot of artwork which might just sum up Wales’ attitude to Euro 2016.

The Liverpool midfielder returned home to south Wales to have the phrase ‘Life begins where fear ends’ inked on his left arm.

I had the Welsh Xavi tag for a while and that didn’t really do me too many favours

Joe Allen

Allied to finding his best form since leaving Swansea for £15million in 2012, it was the latest off-field choice which has helped turned Allen into an unlikely cult hero at Anfield.

From his Jesus-like appearance with beard and flowing locks, to the caring of his wife’s poultry as chronicled by Chicken and Egg magazine, Allen comes across as different to most modern-day footballers.

Even if he now has the obligatory tattoo, the 26-year-old has a dry wit and admits to “crying with laugher” at some of the internet virals which poke fun at him.

“I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly”, said Allen, who expects to overcome a knee injury to figure in Wales’ Euro 2016 opener against Slovakia on Saturday.

“Probably more bad and ugly than good!

“There’s been a few things sent my way that’s had me crying with laughter. The recent biblical references have been quite funny.

“I have got a sense of humour and that’s the way you have to take it - I’m hoping to have a big influence on everyone!

“I’ve seen a few more beards than normal. It’s the long hair next, even though I can’t say I have many of the lads copying me.”

Allen’s situation at Liverpool remains uncertain with talks over his future planned after his return from France.

He has one year left on his contract, but talks over a new deal were put on the backburner in January and former club Swansea and Celtic, now managed by his former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, are keen to sign him.

Rodgers memorably labelled him the “Welsh Xavi” after signing him from Swansea, and Allen has never been short of a nickname.

“There’s been a few floating around. There’s an obvious one I’m not saying!” he replied when asked if any were based on his appearance.

What about the Welsh Pirlo? “That’s a dangerous one,” said Allen.

“I had the Welsh Xavi tag for a while and that didn’t really do me too many favours.

“So I’m trying to steer myself away from the new one too.”

What Allen does readily embrace, however, is Wales’ Euro 2016 experience in France - even down to the way he enthusiastically joined in on the video of the Manic Street Preachers’ tournament anthem, ‘Together Stronger (C’mon Wales)’.

But getting to a major tournament after 58 years is definitely something to shout about.

“Even some of the English lads at Liverpool conceded that as far as football songs go it is a good one,” said Allen.

“England? They’ll probably bring back Vindaloo or something, won’t they?

“Getting to sing with the Manics shows how far we have come, everyone has felt it as a nation and the whole of Wales can’t wait for it to kick off now.

“Anyone would be lying if they said there hasn’t been focus on this during the club season as well.

“To be totally honest there was a stage where you wondered would we ever get to this point.

“Deep down we still had the belief. But it took a lot to get us on this track and being part of Wales playing in a major tournament has made us very proud.”

The fear of failure is over. Life is now really beginning for Welsh football.