Brendan Rodgers has talked up Joe Allen’s talent, character, courage and everything else as he prepares to go up against the midfielder this weekend.
Rodgers had Allen, then only aged 20, at the centre of the Swansea City team which won promotion to the Premier League in 2011 – and passed-and-moved their way to a solid mid-table finish in their first year up.
He took him to Liverpool too at the end of that season – making headlines when he called him ‘the Welsh Xavi’ on infamous documentary Being: Liverpool.
Rodgers ended up leaving Anfield in late 2015, Allen left for Stoke the following summer – and the manager, whose Leicester side head to the Potteries in the FA Cup on Saturday, is clearly still a big fan of the player and man.
“Joe was an amazing player for me,” he said.
“At Swansea he was a young player who’d just broken into the team and he was one of a really strong midfield I had. He was only young but his courage… he was small on the field but big in terms of talent and personality.
“He was a boy who came through the system, bright, well-spoken, a clever guy, very loyal and in my time there he was exceptional.
“I took him to Liverpool and he did a great job when he was there. I think he left there just to get regular football – and I think Stoke are very lucky to have him because he’s a Premier League player, Joe.
“He went there and when they got relegated he wanted to stay and help the club.
“I know all about him. He’s got great energy, a great football brain, he can put his foot in, make passes, he can get goals. He was unfortunate he was out for a period of time with an injury but he’s starting to come back and I know he’s a big talent.”
Allen was ruled out for nine months after rupturing an Achilles tendon in the final match before the first national lockdown last March.
He made his comeback from the bench against Coventry on Boxing Day, played just over an hour against Nottingham Forest three days later and completed the full 90 against Bournemouth last weekend.
Michael O’Neill said earlier this week: “I thought he was brilliant, again, against Bournemouth in terms of his quality in the game, his quality of play and his desire to continue to play.
“I had to continue to speak to him through the game, asking if he was ok, but he never wants to come off.
“It was a good performance. I thought Nick Powell was brilliant too. I think we’ll be stronger in the second half of the season and hopefully we can add to the squad in January.”