Just a couple of months ago, Joe Allen’s name was mud for many Stoke City fans.
Having grown tired of sniping from the stands as Stoke’s struggles near the foot of the Championship table continued, the midfielder cupped an ear to the bet365 faithful while celebrating a goal in a crucial 3-0 victory over Luton Town.
That sort of thing is anathema to football supporters, even if they have been dishing it out themselves. But as Allen later admitted, he’d had enough, even if he was struggling for form too.
He explained: “The thing with a celebration like that is that… it’s not aimed at everyone. I think in my time here there have been a lot of supporters who are great, but I would be lying if I said all fans were great, they’re not.
“We feel the pain of a lot of people, but the abuse and insults can sometimes be too much. It was my way of giving a little bit back, but I can’t see much of a big deal with it.”
Fast forward from that night in the middle of December, and things have improved for both Stoke and Allen.
The Potters have hauled themselves out of the bottom three – albeit only just – and Allen is one of the Stoke players who has thrived under the influence of new manager Michael O’Neill.
So much so, in fact, that it seems the carping following that questionable goal celebration has (almost) been forgotten.
Allen was on the scoresheet again at the weekend as Stoke overcame old foes Cardiff City, and you can guarantee he’d love to repeat his goalscoring feat during the reverse fixture against Luton this Saturday.
But before that game comes a trip to in-form Blackburn this evening (7.45pm), and Allen admits the players owe the fans after successive away defeats at Derby and QPR.
Looking ahead to the game, he said: “Our performances on the road still need to pick up and we need to give the travelling fans a bit more to cheer.
“We know if we perform similar to the Cardiff win, then we will give Blackburn a good game.”
Fans have been reciprocating the goodwill by praising the man signed by Mark Hughes from Liverpool three-and-a-half years ago on social media.
This is what they have been saying…
Jason Pate: Had a few poor(ish) games by his own high standards, and clearly regrets his ear-cupping incident. Other than that, he always gives 100%, and we are lucky to have him as he should really be playing in the PL and not trying to avoid relegation to League 1.
Harvey Wragg: He has always been 100% Stoke. Yes, he had some bad games, no different than anyone else, but he’s always tried to put a good shift in. One of my favourite players.
Alan Davies: Player of the season for me. Whether things are going well or terrible, he never disappears, never stops working, and covers every inch of the pitch. Chips in with goals and assists and does all the unglamorous filling in of holes (usually left by others) and ratting around to break up opposition play and win the ball back. He even wins a ridiculous amount of headers for a player of his size. Great player.
Adam Hunter: Him and James McClean are our best players.
Carol and Jason Snape: Top bloke. Could easily have walked after relegation, but stayed to help the cause. Okay, so he had a dip in form, not surprising really, especially with some of the dross he was playing with.
Gary Pardy: If he has the right type of players around him, then he’s first class.
Joe Griffiths: He works well now we’ve got Nick Powell in there to add creativity. Joe has to play with a creative midfielder because we all know that’s not his strength.
Andrew Rushton: He’s been excellent since MON arrived.
Scott Price: He’s played well under Michael O’Neill and puts more effort in than others.
Jenneke Varney: Very committed player…. always giving 100%.
Mick Wildin: He’s always tried – it was the others that didn’t care.
Brian Higgins: Puts 100 per cent in every game. The others should do that too.