It wasn’t a night about to go down in Welsh football folklore.

But back in August 2008, a midweek trip to the Liberty Stadium to watch Swansea City play Hull in the League Cup took on extra intrigue for me. And not because a resurgent Swansea, then newly promoted to the Championship under Roberto Martinez, were playing Premier League opposition.

I had a different point of interest. It was going to be the first time I saw Pembrokeshire product Joe Allen in action at professional level.

As it happened, the night passed the then 18-year-old by. Swansea went on to win 2-1 after extra time, but Allen was ineffective before being hauled off on 54 minutes for Gorka Pintado.

“He looks too small and slight for the top level,” I remember remarking to Joe Lennon, in the stands with me that night.

“I can’t see him getting a regular place here.”

Lennon’s riposte isn’t printable. But let’s just say he had a better eye for a young player than me.

A few weeks later Allen was loaned out to Wrexham. A few months later, and he was signing a new three year contract at Swansea having returned to the club and turned in an impressive string of displays.

And if he needed to convince the Jack Army faithful, he found the perfect tonic when his first club goal came in the last South Wales derby to be held at Ninian Park. The moment was tempered by a late Cardiff equaliser, but the sight of Allen wheeling towards the away fans kissing the badge after making it 2-1 was enough for most fans. He was now one of their own.

Martinez duly left that summer, Brendan Rodgers arrived. For the two years that followed Swansea grew in stature, and Allen grew with them.

In fact, he was the embodiment of everything the then ‘Swansea way’ was about. He wanted the ball, he kept possession, he thrived in tight spaces. A lack of size was countered by a fiery, aggressive streak.

Inevitably, doubts surfaced as to whether he’d cope with the intensity of the Premier League. As it happened he flourished, and added a cutting edge going forward with four goals as Swansea defied huge odds to finish 11th.

Rodgers soon left for Liverpool and for £15 million, took Allen with him. He also appeared in the 2012 Olympic Games with Team GB.

Allen had originally made his debut for Swansea when aged 16 in an FAW Premier Cup away tie to Port Talbot Town. That night now seemed a very long time ago.

Early days at Anfield weren’t easy. Injury plagued his chances of a regular place, and an obvious closeness to Rodgers made him an easy target for ridicule.

He was part of the Liverpool team that went so close to an unlikely 2013/14 title win but for many, was a weak link in a squad carried by the brilliance of Luis Suarez.

And yet over time, perceptions changed. Allen’s tenacity and willingness to work hard whether it be from the start or off the bench won over the Liverpool faithful - and the media. And there were moments of quality and vital goals to go with it, namely a late equaliser in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Arsenal and the winning penalty in a League Cup semi final shoot out with Stoke. He was still joked about, dubbed ‘Jesus’ by many for his less than immaculate hair do. But this time it was different, it was intended as a term of endearment by Liverpool supporters, not one of cynicism.

When he did move on from Anfield to join Stoke in the summer of 2016, citing a lack of regular starts under the newly installed Jurgen Klopp, there were many sorry to see him go. A far cry from those who offered to drive him back to the Liberty during his early struggles in the North.

In the meantime, his international career had flourished. From a low key debut as a late substitute against Estonia in Llanelli in 2009, Allen became every bit as pivotal to his country as his more heralded midfield partner Aaron Ramsey.

He took his country’s arm band for the first time in 2014, and his displays in what proved to be a surreal Euro 2016 for Wales earned him a place in the overall team of the tournament. He was no longer a decent possession based footballer. He was world class.

Many now lament him being wasted in the Championship with Stoke but his form in the red of Wales hasn’t suffered because of it. And when he wins his 50th cap against Croatia tomorrow, it will be testament to a prolonged period of class and not, as has been the case before, a dearth of depth in the Welsh international set up.

‘Give me hope Joe Allen’ is likely to ring out from the away fans in Osijek as he reaches a deserved milestone. It’s an ironic song, as hope is a term that no longer be applied to Allen when with Wales. He can be counted on to perform regardless of the occasion.

Turns out the boy from Pembrokeshire I once dubbed too small and slight to have an impact in the Championship with Swansea has done alright…..