This interview with Joe Allen is from the Euro 2020 preview issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now and never miss an issue!
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How did it feel to stand there for the national anthem before Wales’ first game at Euro 2016 – their first tournament match since 1958?
That was when it was all real; when you realised, ‘Wow, it’s here’. It was a goosebumps emotional moment. The attitude was that we were honoured to be there, we were proud we’d finally got to a tournament and there was nothing to lose – only things we could gain. That helped us because there was no fear.
You were named in the team of the tournament, putting you in the company of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo, Luka Modric and Pavel Nedved, who’ve done so at recent Euros. What did that mean?
It was hugely surprising. A lot of the names you just mentioned there, and even the team itself in 2016... to be in any sort of category with those players is mind-blowing. I was proud to sneak in there – though their careers went a lot differently to mine! To date, it’s probably the strongest spell I’ve had in my career. I started the tournament well, then when your confidence is up, you try to ride with it. We’ll always have that summer and those memories. What’s good is that we get another crack at it now. Since then, we came close to qualifying for the World Cup, didn’t quite make it, but we haven’t said, ‘That was a once in a lifetime thing we’ll never get near again’.
At 3am on the night you qualified for Euro 2020 with victory over Hungary, videos emerged of you and Sam Vokes celebrating on the streets with fans while they sung ‘Wales, Chickens, Stoke’ in your honour...
[Laughs] That was funny, I did enjoy that.
I think it began with the ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid’ chant for Gareth Bale, then it moved on...
The chant refers to the time you were the cover star for Chicken & Egg magazine, holding a hen. How did that happen?
I’ll never be able to shake this one! [Laughs] My wife Lacey has done quite a lot for animal welfare – she used to help rescue chickens with the British Hen Welfare Trust and they asked her, ‘Would you mind doing a picture and a piece?’ Lacey said, ‘Don’t worry, no one’s going to see it – it’s going to be in the middle of a magazine that’s normally in vets’, so I agreed. Obviously it spread like wildfire… So my big cover isn’t FourFourTwo, but a Chicken & Egg one! It was for a good cause, but it was a real beaut of a picture. [Laughs] We’ve still got a few chickens running around that she looks after.
On March 7 last year, you ruptured your Achilles – what was going through your head at that point?
My instant thought was, ‘That’s the Euros dream done’. It was tough to swallow. But obviously for terrible reasons, the tournament getting postponed was a big boost to me – a huge motivation to get myself right and believe that I was still going to make it.
You returned to the squad this March, but came off eight minutes into the first game with a hamstring injury.
I’d picked up the issue in the last game for Stoke before we met up, so just knew I’d have to see how it went. My attitude was, ‘If you’re not going to try to play in a World Cup qualifier against Belgium, then when are you?’ It was a gutter to come off so early – the bad news was that the injury was worse than suspected; the good news was that I should still have enough time to get myself right for the Euros.
Sounds like all the determination you needed to do just that...
Yeah, big time. That’s the one thing an injury does – you start realising how quickly your career is going by, that you’ve got to make the most of these opportunities. They don’t come round all the time and one moment can change everything. You value stuff much more. I really can’t wait.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 issue of FourFourTwo
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