Another chapter in the recent history of the Wales national team drew to a close on Tuesday evening after the Welsh FA announced the retirement of Joe Allen from international football at the age of 32.
The midfielder has followed in the footsteps of Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer and most-capped player Gareth Bale but, unlike Bale, Allen has not hung up his football boots completely.
The two players, alongside Aaron Ramsey, have embodied the revival of the national team in the past decade and their contributions to Welsh football as a whole will be forever etched into the country’s history.
Corberan’s new West Brom deal is a huge boost for fans after Leeds links
De Zerbi for PM: Brighton boss has skills that would put our politicians to shame
Howe channelling Simeone with Newcastle’s antics on and off the ball
They qualified for their first European Championships in 2016 under Chris Coleman and delivered one of the greatest underdog stories in international football as they went on to reach the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Portugal. Having tasted European competition and being hungry for more, Wales qualified for Euro 2020 under Ryan Giggs and made it to the knockout stages under the guidance of current manager Rob Page.
Page’s passion was just as hot as that shown by Wales’ playing Holy Trinity of Bale, Allen and Ramsey, and they were able to expand their European adventure to a global one as they qualified for their first World Cup in 64 years in 2022.
That tournament in Qatar, which ended in the group stage, signalled the end of the road for Wales’ golden generation as the fire had clearly not been as burning as brightly in the veteran trio as it had been in years prior. They still had the hunger and desire within them but their bodies were unable to match that affection. The nation will be forever grateful for what these players have given them in these past few years but now they must prepare themselves for what comes next.
While there has been a lot said about the new kids on the block for Wales, there is no player in that group that has the same ceiling as Bale. Young attacker Brennan Johnson is the brightest talent of the lot, but he alone is not going to be enough to keep Wales competitive on the international stage. Although they will have a better chance of qualifying for future World Cups with the number of qualified teams rising from 32 to 48 for the 2026 edition.
Wales fans were delighted to see the likes of Bale, Allen and Ramsey make an appearance in football’s greatest competition, but there are a lot of concerns for the short-term future now that two of these legends have said Hwyl fawr to the national team. Ramsey is believed to be sticking around for a bit longer but his abilities have drastically regressed in recent years.
The greatest thing the former Arsenal star can offer the side now is leadership and help aid the development of the young players coming through. A shining example would be Birmingham City teenager Jordan James, who accompanied the Dragons to Qatar, helping him prepare for when he is eventually called upon as a regular senior player.
While it was hoped that the superstardom of Bale would significantly improve the standards of Welsh football, it seems as though that there is going to be a lapse in Wales’ evolution on the pitch. It could last for a couple of years but there is still a lot of hope. The young supporters of Wales, who have grown up seeing the legend of Bale unfold, will be more determined than ever to pull on the red shirt and follow in the footsteps of one of the nation’s most iconic figures, continuing the fine work that he and his teammates have overseen to put Welsh football on the map.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change