JOE ALLEN has revealed how a few words of encouragement from Gary Speed helped put him on the road to becoming a Kop idol.
The Liverpool new-boy is already one of the Premier League’s outstanding midfielders after only one season in the top flight at Swansea.
His rapid rise to fame was highlighted when former Swans boss Brendan Rodgers splashed out £15million to take the 22-year-old Welshman to Anfield.
This afternoon Allen is set to make his Reds debut as they kick-off their season at West Brom.
And he will never forget how tragic Speed boosted his confidence when the ex-Wales boss was the man to watch.
Allen said: “Gary was very influential and in the year before his tragic death he was massive for me.
“It’s always fantastic to hear those things. There’s not many people with his experience at this level, so to hear those things spoken by a man like that really encourages you.
“If there are times when there are any doubts, you think back to things like that to help pick yourself up.
“Gary was a great man who’s missed by everyone. He was a great football man.”
The whole of football was shocked into silence when Speed passed away last November, aged just 42.
Rodgers was in charge of Swansea that terrible day yet believes the tragedy helped Allen become the man he is.
The Anfield chief said: “Joe really grew from that and drew strength from it. He had big respect for Gary.”