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With the 2022 World Cup edging ever closer, Wales boss Rob Page has been dealt a significant fitness blow ahead of the big kick off. Don’t fear it is not Gareth Bale but midfielder Joe Allen is now facing a real race against time to make the squad.
What’s the deal with Joe Allen?
This whole season is turning into a bit of a nightmare for Allen. The 32-year-old joined Swansea on a free transfer in the summer with the aim of guiding them towards promotion whilst ensuring he was ready to go in the World Cup. It was all going smoothly enough – although the Swans’ results were up and down – but his hamstring gave way part way through the first half of Swansea’s win over Hull on September 17th; that saw Allen ruled out.
In his absence, Swansea’s form has picked up with the club winning five of the six games played since then as Allen has looked to ease back to fitness. Originally, he was due to be back in training around now, however, it has been confirmed this week that his recovery hasn’t gone to plan.
The expectation now is that Allen will need at least a couple more weeks before he can return to training; that means, whilst he should be ready to return, he won’t have had a minute of competitive football before Wales jet off to Qatar.
Will Wales take a risk on an unfit Allen?
Pretty much every nation will be asking themselves questions over certain members of their team ahead of Qatar around taking players who are carrying knocks and lacking game time. For example, look across the Welsh border to England; they’ve got a similar dilemma with Reece James and, in the past, have taken semi-fit stars into tournaments – namely David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. It’s rarely worked out for the Three Lions, but will Page view things differently?
If Allen is fit enough to be out on the grass he will almost definitely be heading to Qatar. For one thing, Page has already cited a “strong probability” that Allen get “on the plane”. The player will be partly helped out by the fact the squad size for this tournament has been inflated to 26 players but, in the most part, it’s his ability and experience that will stand him in good stead.
Allen, who has amassed 72 caps for Wales, is a big player for the team and is deemed “key” to the Welsh gameplan. On top of that, he has vast experience both at club and international level having played a big chunk of his career in the English top flight and having played almost every minute of Wales’ famous Euro 2016 journey,
What other options are there?
Wales being without Joe Allen isn’t exactly a new thing. Despite his impressive career with the xxx, he’s missed a fair bit of football too – including the most recent round of Nations League games. If fit, you’d expect Aaron Ramsey to be heavily involved in Qatar. That leaves players such as Dylan Levitt, Jonny Williams, Matt Smith and, perhaps most notably, Joe Morrell seeing their prospects boosted by Allen’s struggles. Regardless of who gets the nod though, all of them will be seen as a downgrade on Allen.