Sunday Star-Times

Wellington sign prolific striker

- LIAM HYSLOP January 21, 2018

Ross Allen loves a goal just about as much as his home island.

The 30-year-old scored 239 of them in just 226 games for Guernsey FC in the lower leagues of English football, and now he wants to test himself against the best of New Zealand football after signing on to play the rest of the ISPS Handa Premiershi­p with Team Wellington.

It wasn’t an easy decision for Allen to leave Guernsey, a British crown dependency nestled on the French side of the Channel, but the travel bug has bitten him and taken hold after he took time away from the game in early January to take in the sights this part of the world has to offer.

‘‘I came out here and fell in love with the place,’’ he said on Friday, one year to the day after first setting foot in New Zealand.

‘‘It was time for a new challenge and it was the last year I could get the working holiday visa out here so it was now-or-never kind of thing.’’

Allen was the focal point of Guernsey FC’s attack since its inception in 2011.

That was when they decided to combine the teams from the island of roughly 60,000 people and take on the teams of the British mainland by entering the English football league.

They gained consecutiv­e promotions in their first two seasons, scoring 269 goals in those 76 games, and losing just eight times.

One of Allen’s best seasons was in 2013-14, when he scored 54 goals as Guernsey reached the Isthmian League Division One South playoffs, the eighth tier of English football.

They have been stuck in that division since, which Allen attributes to the influx of foreign players to the top leagues in England, pushing the better English players further down the Football League pyramid in search of opportunit­ies.

As for himself, there was a trial at Newcastle United at 16, and a few others over the years at Championsh­ip (second division) and other profession­al clubs, but he admitted his heart wasn’t really in it during those brief spells away.

‘‘The thing was, I never did myself justice because I never really enjoyed England or being there.

‘‘I couldn’t imagine myself living there, and part of the problem with that was Guernsey is just such a great place to live and we’re so spoilt over there. It’s too hard to escape and make it over there because life is just too great there.’’

One player who did escape Guernsey was Matt Le Tissier, who went on to play 541 games for Southampto­n and was patron of Guernsey FC for the first few years.

He even turned out for one game in 2013, at the age of 44, when the club was desperate for players. Their home ground had been flooded for four months, so they were forced to play 17 games in April of that year.

Allen has been in training fort a month with Team Wellington and said the pace of the game was quicker than he was used to.

‘‘It took me a few weeks to get up to speed but I feel like I’m there now. I’m really happy. I didn’t want it to be easy, I didn’t want it to be the same as back home. I wanted it to be a step up. It’s perfect at this stage in my career to challenge myself.’’

 ?? ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF ?? Ross Allen scored 239 goals for Guernsey FC.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF Ross Allen scored 239 goals for Guernsey FC.

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