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Wales need more Joe Allens, says Craig Bellamy

Joe Allen has come through the ranks at Swansea City
Joe Allen has come through the ranks at Swansea City

Craig Bellamy believes Swansea City midfielder Joe Allen is the type of player Wales need to produce on a regular basis in the future.

The ex-Wales captain pinpointed two-cap Allen at the Welsh Football Trust's grassroots forum explaining how they aim to improve the national game.

It sees children in small-sided games to improve their playing, which has worked in Germany, Spain and Holland.

"Football has definitely changed," said striker Bellamy.

"I think it's more to do now with being comfortable on the ball and being able to receive the ball will get you a much better career than being physically big and physically strong.

"If you could have it all - be physically big, physically strong and be comfortable on the ball, you're the perfect player.

"I have a big admiration about Swansea at the moment, how they go about their work. I'm a huge fan of Joe Allen, I like him a lot because of the way they play and how they use him.

"For me, he is the type of footballer we need to try to produce on a regular basis. He's a special talent like your Aaron Ramseys. They are special players.

Wales coach Osian Roberts explains mini football

"Don't get me wrong, we've been able to produce players, but wouldn't it be nice to have five or six out of this age group instead of one in maybe two or three years."

Allen, 21, came through the ranks at Swansea and made his debut on the final day of the 2006/07 season, but has gone on to make 101 league and cup appearances, scoring three times.

He is one of a number of players who are tipped for bright futures with Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale already enjoying regular Premier League action at Arsenal and Tottenham respectively.

Wales have not qualified for a major tournament since 1956 and their hopes of reaching Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine are slim after losing their opening three games.

The closest they have come in recent times was in 1993 when the lost 2-1 to Romania to miss out on a place in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

And in 2003, Wales were beaten by Russia in a play-off to end their hopes of reaching Euro 2004 in Portugal.

"We want to be competing on a regular basis in every tournament and starting at the grassroots football will give us an opportunity to be able to do something about our future," added 59-times capped Bellamy.

"It's clear we need to change. We can't keep going on the way we've been going on. We're not producing the players at the rate we would like, we're not producing enough players of the quality we would like and it's clear we need to take a step back and look at what other nations are doing.

"I grew up playing 11 v 11 at nine years of age, but I was very quick and I could get away with murder. If my touch wasn't very good I could still get on the end of it.

Allen 'flattered' by comments

"It taught me a lot of bad habits where 4 v 4 in a small area doesn't allow that. Playing these games in small areas gives them the benefit of touching the ball every two seconds and being involved either defending or attacking and everyone's involved."

Wales has around 42,000 youngsters playing junior football according to statistics and three times as many people of all ages playing football with affiliated clubs than rugby.

But Bellamy warns that results will not be instant.

"Is this going to work in the next five years? No, it's going to take longer than that," he said.

"You look at the Holland team now... they were doing this in the 1980s and they have a World Cup team and a World Cup final with players who have all come through this season.

"Football is the most played sport in this country. We have to give them this opportunity as we've been letting them down for too long.

"We all have to buy into this because what we have been doing clearly hasn't been working for too many years. This is going to be a continuous progression."

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see also
Bellamy no longer Wales captain
06 Jan 11 |  Welsh

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