Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen has been selected by manager Chris Coleman to captain the Wales team when they face the Netherlands on Wednesday, according to BBC Sport Wales.
Coleman will be without his regular captain Ashley Williams, as well as star midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, when his Welsh team travel to Amsterdam to face the World Cup contenders. However, Coleman believes Allen, 24, is more than capable of leading a team that is expected to also include experienced internationals such as Crystal Palace’s Joe Ledley and former West Ham defender Danny Gabbidon.
“I had no qualms about asking Joe,” said manager Chris Coleman.
“He's gone on and established himself at one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League.”
“In the second half of the season he was really, really outstanding. It's something [captaincy] that I never thought twice about.”
After missing much of the first half of the season with a shoulder injury Allen finished the season strongly, establishing himself once more in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield as the Anfield club came close to winning a 19th league title.
Allen began his career at Swansea City and was a key part of the short passing game that has become part of the South Wales club’s identity and the foundation of their rise from the bottom tier of English football in 2005 to European football last season. Allen’s talent as a passing midfielder led Brendan Rodgers to pay £15 million to bring the Carmarthen-born player with him to Liverpool when the ex-Swans boss moved to Anfield in the summer of 2012.
Coleman also sees Allen as a key component in the short passing game he wants Wales to play, adding:
“I think the way we play Joe is at the heart of that. He's a very brave player, one of the bravest players I've experienced working with in terms of he always wants the ball.”
“It doesn't matter whether he's having a good time or a bad time he just keeps going to get the ball and he leads within his play.”
“International football, the way he plays, is for Joe. There's no opposition that we could play that I think Joe would struggle to make an impact on the game.”
The trip to face Louis Van Gaal’s team would always be a daunting one, but without his three most influential players Coleman will be expecting the more experienced players to lead and inspire a mixture of young and lower league players in what looks at best like an exercise in damage limitation.
Coleman nevertheless believes this is game provides the sternest of tests and a huge learning curve for his squad. He said:
“It doesn't get any harder than Holland away and it's a good experience for us and that's how you learn.”
“When we get a chance to play a friendly what's the point of us playing a friendly against a lower team where we know we're going to win nine times out of ten?”
“That looks fine and we've won another game but you learn more when you play against the best teams.”
It will certainly provide an opportunity for promising youngsters like Manchester City’s Emyr Huws and Manchester United youth player Tom Lawrence to show they can stand toe to toe with some of the world’s elite players, such as Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.
As the final friendly before Wales kick off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in September it allows Coleman to identify precisely the depth of talent available to him. If he can get his best XI fit then Coleman believes Wales have a competitive chance in a group that contains World Cup-bound Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However, over a two year qualifying campaign this may happen less than a handful of times so unearthing players that can do a job at international level will be vital if Coleman is to end Wales’ 58 year wait to compete at a major tournament when Europe’s elite travel to France in 2016.
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