Confident Joe Allen taking Liverpool switch all in his stride
JOE Allen does not sound like someone whose life has been transformed in the last month.
Softly spoken and calm as ever, he discusses Wales's forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Belgium with typical ease.
But only a few weeks ago the 22-year-old completed a £15 million move from Swansea City to Liverpool and was reunited with former Swans manager Brendan Rodgers at Anfield.
As recently as October last year, Allen had yet to start a game for Wales and was only in the process of establishing himself as a Premier League player with Swansea.
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These days he commands a starting position with one of the most successful clubs in British football history — quite a change for a player who made his Swansea debut against Blackpool in League One.
"It's something that will probably take a bit of time for me to get used to," Allen says.
"There is a difference. It's easy to see that but, from my point of view, I'm looking forward to that pressure.
"It's a new pressure, an added pressure which comes with situations like mine.
"But I have had the experience of being in the Olympics, which was a help in terms of starting this season.
"You aspire to play at the highest level and be the best player you can, and these are the things that come with it.
"To some people it will make a difference but I don't think there will be a difference for me.
"I said to myself I would approach this year the same as I've started any other in my career and give it everything I can."
Allen has earned glowing reviews for his Liverpool performances so far, and the plaudits will only increase if he continues to play like he did at Swansea.
After Allen was named man of the match in Swansea's 1-0 South Wales derby win at the Cardiff City Stadium in 2010, Rodgers lauded the young midfielder's ability.
"He is a controller, someone who dictates the game like Xavi," Rodgers said at the time. "I'm not saying he's Xavi, but he's that type. He has that wonderful footballing arrogance that big players have."
Off the pitch, there is not the faintest sense of arrogance about Allen, an articulate man whose conversation is as considered as any of his pinpoint passes.
But when the 22-year-old is in a match he exudes self-assurance, and he says the vast sum of money Rodgers paid for him has only added to that confidence.
"It's flattering," Allen says. "The level of faith shown in me can only inspire me to go out and perform on the pitch.
"It's going to be very beneficial to me and, in terms of confidence, it won't do me any harm.
"You have to have massive belief, borderline arrogance at times. I think you can tell the difference between a top player playing with belief and one playing without it."
Allen certainly belongs to the former category at the moment, as his handful of Liverpool appearances to date have shown.
Watching the Pembrokeshire product play at Anfield may seem a little surreal at first, but the style and verve with which he has performed will be familiar to Swansea fans.
He will wear red again on Friday, though this time it will be for Wales, who begin their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Belgium in Cardiff.
There has been much conjecture about the array of glittering talent in the Belgian squad, but Wales will want to remind the world of their own match-winners.
Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy have all experienced playing for some of Britain's biggest clubs, and have for some time been Wales's flag-bearers on the international stage.
And now it seems Allen is ready to join them as one of Welsh football's leading lights.
"I think it's natural sometimes to focus on the opposition and the stars they might have in their team," Allen says. "But I think it's important to remember the talent and ability in our team.
"There's often a lot of talk about who we're facing and the big players they've got, but I'd like to think Belgium and Serbia will look at our squad and the type of players we've got and realise they'll be in for a tough game."