Despite a 3-0 defeat to Sweden in their final warm-up match ahead of Euro 2016, there are many things for Wales to be thankful for right now. With the semi-flappable Wayne Hennessey between the sticks, the gloriously bald James Collins in defence, the squanders-far-too-many-passes Aaron Ramsey in the midfield and – thank the Lord – Gareth Bale up front, they are about to go to their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. Contesting a group that also includes England, Slovakia and Russia, they have an outsider's chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.
So long the poor, neglected cousins of the Welsh rugby union team, Chris Coleman's men now carry the nation's hopes on their shoulders. They are on the cusp of footballing folklore, and have to appreciate the magnitude of the situation if they are going to succeed.
Unfortunately, they are far too busy appreciating Joe Allen on their lads' WhatsApp group.
Speaking to WalesOnline ahead of the Sweden game, captain Ashley Williams revealed that the squad have a fixation with the hirsute Liverpool midfielder that is bordering on the cultish. He's said: "Everyone loves Joe. We have a WhatsApp messaging group, and at least once a week we have a Joe Allen Appreciation Day. Great beard, great haircut, great guy."
Now, we're sure Joe Allen is, in fact, a great guy. We agree that his wavy locks are rather fetching, as is his whiskery, waifish face. He is a functional, capable midfielder, whose understated influence in the middle of the park could be crucial to Wales' ambitions for the Euros. We could just about accept the idea of a yearly Joe Allen Appreciation Day, where everyone could wear fake beards and revel in their semi-ironic love of chickens.
But, seriously, a weekly Joe Allen Appreciation Day? One fifth of the working week, dedicated entirely to the appreciation of Joe Allen? The most interesting thing about Joe Allen is that he owns 14 hens whose names read like a list of characters in a particularly uninspired episode of The Mighty Boosh – Meg, Leg, Silkie Steve, Silkie Steve Junior, Kate, Snowy, Giblet, Nugget, Kiev, Dora, Holly, Shimmer, Shine and Chickaletta. That's according to Chicken & Egg Magazine, which is rumoured to be Joe Allen's go-to publication for current affairs.
In essence, Joe Allen is a profoundly average lad from West Wales who, above all else, fucking loves chickens. That's all there is to appreciate, endearing as his love of chickens may be. If the Wales squad dedicate one day a week solely to the appreciation of Joe Allen, there is something profoundly unsettling going on behind the scenes. That's 52 Joe Allen Appreciation Days a year, for God's sake. That's 14.25% of the year spent worshipping at the altar of Joe Allen. It's all a bit Doomsday Cult, if you ask us.
If his teammates really do celebrate Joe Allen Appreciation Day every week, there are two possible conclusions to be drawn from their behaviour. Either Ashley Williams and co. have found inner mindfulness in their deep, weekly meditation over Joe Allen, or Allen has set himself up as a latter-day Jesus and turned their training camp into some sort of sect. That would explain his increasingly Christ-like beard, as well as his flowing hair.
Let's just hope he doesn't have any plans to move the squad to an isolated commune to await the coming apocalypse, because that will almost guarantee that Wales go out at the group stage.