Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Joe Allen hopes amazing journey has changed Welsh football forever

By Ian Herbert

Wales midfielder Joe Allen has declared in the aftermath of their incredible journey to the semi-finals of the European Championships that the achievement must not be a one-off, but change the entire course of the nation's football story.

The Football Association of Wales - who have organised a homecoming event at the Cardiff City Stadium where tens of thousands of fans are expected to greet Chris Coleman's players this evening - have secured £15.1m in prize money by reaching the last four, compared with England's £9.6m.

A third of the money will be divided among Coleman, his staff and players - 60 individuals in total. But there are also plans to invest much of the remaining £9m in 3G pitches, with the League of Wales to be the hub for those resources, becoming community football facilities in the process.

Allen, who has spent the last 11 years progressing through the country's Under-17, 19 and 21 ranks, said there must not be another 50-year wait to be represented at a summer tournament.

"We have to use this experience as a springboard," the 26-year-old said. "We don't want this to be a one-off. We want this to be what inspires us to do it again and again. With the quality and the set-up we have got, we are confident we will do that. We all know how long the wait has been, it's been very long."

Wales will rise to 11th in the Fifa world rankings, two places above England, despite their 2-0 defeat to Portugal.

The players took two hours to emerge from the Stade de Lyon dressing room and head out of the stadium on Wednesday night and Allen looked as desolate as any of them after a performance which did not hit the levels they had displayed against Belgium in the quarter final.

The players had been taking in everything that they had done, according to Allen. He said: "It's remembering, despite the disappointment of going out, just what we have done. We are hoping that this story and journey we have been on will change Welsh football forever."

Allen's Liverpool future is unclear, with the possibility that he may move back to Swansea. "That's something I haven't even thought about," he said.

As the players head off for Cardiff from their Brittany base today, midfielder Joe Ledley is bound for Ibiza, where he had already made plans to marry his partner Ruby May tomorrow. It was clear that the experience of playing against Cristiano Ronaldo had left him less than enamoured with the Portuguese.

Asked why it had not happened for Wales, Ledley said: "I'm not sure but they were two rubbish goals. Ronaldo's shot was useless. Normally he hits them from there but he scuffed the cross for a tap-in.

"With the header, the guy can leap but apart from that he didn't really do anything.

"We want to achieve better things than this and hopefully we can do that with the World Cup. That's the aim."

Belfast Telegraph