Wales midfielder Joe Allen has stepped up his return to fitness by completing 75 minutes for Stoke Under-23s in his first competitive appearance for over nine months.
Allen ruptured an Achilles tendon against Hull on March 7 and would have missed Euro 2020 but for the tournament being delayed 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 30-year-old’s return is a huge boost for Stoke with Michael O’Neill’s side just outside the Sky Bet Championship play-off places.
Allen, who was named in the official Euro 2016 team of the tournament when Wales reached the semi-finals under Chris Coleman, remains a pivotal player for his country.
His last appearance for Wales came when Ryan Giggs’ side secured qualification for Euro 2020 with a 2-0 victory over Hungary in November 2019.
Speaking before Allen’s return on Monday, Potters boss O’Neill said: “He’ll get some minutes and hopefully that will be the final part of his build-up.
“We’ve got to give him time. We’re not going to throw him straight back in and see the Joe Allen that we know, although we don’t think that’s far away.”
Allen made a winning return as Kevin Russell’s U23 side ran out 4-3 victors against West Brom, with Ethon Varian scoring a hat-trick inside the first 36 minutes and Christian Norton adding a fourth on the stroke of half-time.
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