When I played college football, I shared central midfield duties with a kid who didn't really like to tackle, had no discernible skill to speak of and whose 'contribution' consisted of running about a lot, pointing angrily, needling the referee and berating the rest of us at every opportunity. Yet, he started every game, effectively reducing the team to ten men and also reducing my legs to stumps, with the effort of 'carrying' him for 90 minutes.
"Why, Trev, did this abomination of a footballer get his place on the university team?" comes your eminently reasonable question. Well, none of us could understand it, no matter how many times we quietly and respectfully asked our coach - his uncle. No, we just couldn't work it out. No idea.
Joe Allen stands accused by some of being the beneficiary of a similar kind of footballing nepotism. Let's be abundantly clear; I rate Allen very highly and believe that he will eventually be an excellent player for Liverpool Football Club. However, the insistence of Brendan Rodgers on his selection ahead of Jordan Henderson, when lacking form, confidence and functional shoulders has raised fans' eyebrows and stuck in plenty of craws.
It is not simply that many rate Henderson so highly. If Allen was playing at the level he managed in the opening six or seven games of the season, there could be little complaint about the exclusion of the England Under 21 captain. Sadly, the Welshman was a pale, fragile and ineffectual shadow of his former self, singularly unable to impact positively on games Liverpool badly needed to win.
It is flat out unfair to blame the player in any of this and it is one of the great disadvantages of having such a huge fan base that, inevitably, there will be those who stand beneath the same banner and yet understand precious little of the game. Such people railed mercilessly against Joe Allen, making him their personal voodoo doll, upon which to vent their ample spleen. I have no truck with that mindset. They are the boo-boys next to me on the Kop who lambasted Lucas and the phone-in whingers who harangued Henderson.
It is heartening, then, to hear Allen speak now of how he wants to re-establish himself in the team and show the fans the type of player he can be. He cannot be blamed for his manager's confidence in him and he has shown considerable fortitude to play through injury.
"The fans have definitely not seen the best of me yet. It's no secret that recent months haven't gone great for me. I am confident and faithful that next season I can perform a lot better. Unfortunately this season's a write-off in regards to the injury but the plan is, and I've got a bit of time, to make sure it's right over the summer break in time for pre-season."
Allen's attitude is commendable and one would not be surprised to hear that he was one of only ten first team players who have voluntarily taken advantage of one-to-one sessions with Dr. Steve Peters. He does not hide behind his injury or use it as a shield against criticism and seems to be encouragingly positive about the future.
"The injury was something I'd been trying to put to the back of my mind but it was something that needed to be addressed. I'm glad it's sorted in some ways because I'm looking forward to it being fixed and not having to worry about it. It had been there for a while so I'd almost grown used to it but it's got worse and worse and I was probably kidding myself by not getting it sorted a bit sooner."
The young midfielder says that "it's difficult to say" whether or not the injury impaired his performances and insisted he did not wan to use it "as an excuse". He is confident that being rid of his discomfort and restriction will "massively" aid his displays in red.
"I'm excited and looking forward to being one hundred percent fit. These things can often play on your mind. Hopefully this will bring out the best in me."
All but the most mealy-mouthed begrudgers would hope for the very same. A fit and highly functioning Joe Allen will only be an addition to Liverpool's efforts to climb back towards the top of the league.