Joe Allen will hold crunch talks with Stoke City amid serious transfer interest from former club Swansea City.
The midfielder is now a free agent after seeing his contract with the Potters expire, although Michael O’Neill’s men are exploring the option of keeping Allen at the bet365 Stadium. He was not mentioned in the club’s released list which was published just three days after their season ended with a 1-1 draw against Coventry City.
But he is attracting interest from a number of clubs, including the Swans. Russell Martin is eager to bring the Wales international back to south Wales this summer. “He loves this club, I love him as a player. I will say it. I would love to [sign him]. We’ll have to wait and see,” he said last weekend. You can read Martin’s comments on Allen in full here.
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Martin has regularly spoken about the need for battle-hardened Championship players in his squad. In short, he requires players who can produce consistently high levels during hectic periods within the notoriously compact second tier schedule.
Allen quite simply fits the bill in that regard. He played 3,480 minutes of league action last season, the 58th most in the Championship. Matt Grimes was one of only six players in the division to play every minute while the only other Swan higher than Allen’s number of minutes played was top scorer Joel Piroe who got 10 minutes of game-time more.
A toe injury saw Allen miss three games in September while he was suspended for the Potters’ defeat to Blackburn Rovers in November. It means, when available, Allen featured in all but one of Stoke’s league fixtures last term which proves he can emphatically tick the box of being suited to the demands of the division. Chuck his Wales appearances into the mix and there can be no qualms over his ability to feature week-in week-out.
Then there’s the playing style. Allen excelled under Brendan Rodgers more than a decade ago, and his passing ability and awareness combined make him an ideal fit for the style Martin has implemented. But his doggedness is a major asset too.
Allen finished at the top of Stoke’s charts when it came to the average number of tackles and interceptions made in Championship matches last term while he is way down the list of bad controls per game and times dispossessed per game. Martin’s own words sum it up. “Joe is someone who would fit here perfectly,” said the head coach.
From the player’s perspective, the move makes plenty of sense. He knows the city inside out and has a genuine bond with the club and its supporters. Let’s not forget, the central midfielder has come close to re-joining the Swans before.
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The obvious stumbling block is finances, and the potential knock-on effect it could have on other potential signings, or even exits.
“To be anywhere near getting Joe Allen to come back here and be a player, you have to rely on his feeling and connection to the club, and also his willingness to earn not as much money as he has done,” explained Martin.
A key question has to come regarding Allen’s current status. Yes, he’s 32 and has no resale value. But when does a player of his quality become available on a free transfer?
If he makes the difference when it comes to the race for promotion, then it would quite simply be a no brainer. And if the Swans can add the youth, dynamism and athleticism required elsewhere in the squad, that would only benefit a quality player like Allen who could pull the strings from a central role.
The midfielder now has the small matter of a World Cup play-off final and four Nations League matches to focus on, although, if Joel Piroe is sold sooner rather than later, it could free up the funds necessary for the Welshman to return to his boyhood club well ahead of the start of the 2022/23 season. Should the move happen, both head coach Martin and Allen himself would be delighted to say the least.