Mark Hughes discovers a leader in Joe Allen
BY JANINE SELF / According to Mark Hughes the stars were in perfect alignment when £13million (Sh1.60bn) ‘bargain’ Joe Allen agreed to make the switch from Liverpool to Stoke in the summer. Stellar interference or not, the Welsh galactico’s performances have been on a different planet despite his team’s struggling start to the season.
Midfielder Allen, scorer of both goals in a comfortable win over Sunderland, has added clinical finishing and leadership qualities to his trademark passing game. “There was a lot of thinking behind getting him here,’ admitted Hughes. ‘He is an exceptional player at this level but I didn’t realise we had a goalscoring midfielder.
“He’s a leader as well. He’s taken on the mantle. We have not demanded it. Players look at him to get on the ball, then the team follow you and you become an important part of it. Allen, tagged the Wales Pirlo when he was at Swansea, has already matched his season’s best Premier League goals tally. His first-half double took him to four for the campaign and finally gave Stoke their first victory.
More encouragingly, Allen’s contribution to the team appears to be rubbing off on the other big names like Marko Arnautovic, Wilfried Bony and Xherdan Shaqiri although, significantly, record signing Gianni Imbula cannot even make the final 18.
Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the table and, quite frankly, look like staying there.
Stoke City’s Joe Allen celebrates scoring their first goal.