News emerged today that despite struggling with a shoulder injury that will require surgery in the coming weeks and result in a three-month absence, Joe Allen has been named to the Wales squad set to face Scotland and Croatia when March's internationals kick off next week. For Allen, more football seems the last thing the player needs. For Wales, though, losing Allen could be the final blow to their World Cup hopes.
It's a case that could see his loyalties tested to the limit, with Wales likely needing four points from the two games to keep even the faintest chance of World Cup qualification alive. Currently, they stand fifth in their group on three points and with four of ten qualifying matches played. Croatia and Belgium stand first and second with ten points apiece, and if Wales can't at least keep them in sight their hopes will truly done by qualification's half-way point.
Of course, most will have believed Wales' chances of qualification ended before the first ball was kicked on the road to Brazil 2014, and loses to Belgium along with a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Serbia to kick off the campaign in September hardly helped their cause. Allen, though, may be less concerned with that reality than he is with the dream of qualifying in Brazil, however unlikely it might be.
"It is something that needs sorting out," was Allen's view of the situation he faces with his shoulder and the layoff that will follow the needed surgery. "I had an operation a few years ago and unfortunately it is a recurrence. It has slowly deteriorated to the point where an operation is the only thing that can solve it. I can play on, but it is all about the timing"
With Wales not playing another qualifying match until September, it could well be that the midfielder will hold off on having the surgery he needs until after the international break. Moreover, given his importance to the Welsh team and that his need to undergo surgery has been made public, it's likely the coaching staff would have named him to the squad without having first gauged his willingness to play.
All told it suggests Allen fully intends to be involved in at least three more matches—this weekend with Liverpool and then the two internationals—before going under the knife. Whether or not that will end up being the right choice for the player's long-term health won't be certain any time soon, though it certainly seems an added risk.