Wales

Euro 2016: Wales players in the eyes of their families

With all eyes on Wales for the country's first appearance at a major football tournament since 1958, families of some of the players have revealed what their sons, brothers and husbands are like off the pitch.

Joe Allen

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Joe Allen has become one of the most recognisable faces in football, but to his two sisters he is simply a "nice, down to earth person, with a good sense of humour."

Allen, from Narberth, is the second youngest of four children; Kate, Harry - who has represented Great Britain's Deaf football team - and 17-year-old Amy.

"We're a very sporty family and football has always been important to us as a family," Kate explained.

"Even our mum is a big fan and I sometimes catch her watching random La Liga games.

"Joe was only nine when he started playing for Swansea and even though he was young we could see he stood out.

"He also had the commitment and I can't ever remember him missing a training session.

"We all know it's something that was important to him and we're proud he's had success.

Image copyright Kate & Amy Allen

"I never had any doubt he would have success in his career."

Allen came through the ranks at Swansea City and played in the Championship play-off final win over Reading in 2011 which secured promotion to the Premier League.

Established as a Welsh international after making his debut against Estonia in 2009, Allen left the Liberty Stadium for Liverpool in the summer of 2012.

"I couldn't believe it," Amy said of her older brother's £15m move to the Anfield giants.

"Liverpool are such a big club and, in school, a lot of the children supported Liverpool.

Kate added: "The scrutiny is on another level compared to Swansea.

"Liverpool have so many supporters across the world and everyone has an opinion.

"It was surreal seeing him on the television and the fact at one time he was playing with Steven Gerrard and other famous people.

"By now we've got used to it and he hasn't changed a bit. Joe is Joe. He's a very down to earth person."

'Ponies and dogs'

Allen made a surprise appearance on the front cover of Chicken & Egg magazine in March, and Kate says Joe shares a passion for animals with his wife Lacey.

"They don't just keep chickens," Kate told BBC Radio Cymru.

"They've got two goats, two Shetland ponies and dogs. That's definitely the influence of his wife Lacey.

"She does a lot with the RSPCA and I believe they donated money they had for their wedding towards the charity."

Allen has also developed a new look during a season in which he helped Liverpool reach the finals of the League Cup and Europa League.

Sporting longer hair and a beard to rival that of Wales team-mate Joe Ledley, he has been likened to Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo.

And his new look has the approval of his sisters.

"He looks older," Amy joked.

"Without it he looks younger and I think with the beard he's played well."

Ben Davies

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Ben Davies remains close to his family in Wales even though his footballing career has taken him to London and a career with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.

Davies started training with Swansea as a seven-year-old and signed his first apprenticeship with the club when he was 16, leaving Welsh language secondary Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera after his GCSEs.

"He enjoys being home and he's very close to his family," his mother, Eryl told BBC Radio Cymru's Byd y Belles series.

"He enjoys being with his friends either at the cricket club, friends he made when he was younger when he played football and the friends he's made in London.

"Ben played rugby for the school, football and cricket in the summer."

Davies made his international debut against Scotland in a World Cup qualifier in 2015.

Image copyright Eryl Davies

It was whirlwind couple of months not only for the then 19-year-old from Neath but also his family.

"He started playing in Swansea City's first team and the next thing he was training with Wales' senior team," Eryl said.

"The next thing, we were going to Cardiff to see him play against Scotland. It was a bit of a shock and I didn't know what to expect.

"It was exciting and I was fairly nervous, but it was a lovely day and special for us all as a family."

Davies' opportunity with Swansea and Wales came after team-mate Neil Taylor suffered a serious ankle injury early in the 2012-13 season.

His rapid rise to prominence surprised many seasoned football observers, but not his sister Hannah.

Image copyright Hannah Davies

"People at school always used to ask me was it a shock that my brother was doing so well," she said.

"No it wasn't because I always knew he was going to be successful and were just waiting for it to happen.

"It happened so quickly when he started for Swansea's first team and things went on from there.

"He's a very determined lad but he takes everything in his stride and goes through life being happy.

"He's always reading something. We always see pictures on Twitter of his team-mates making fun of him.

"They've got their iPads and listening to music and he's got a book. He likes general knowledge quizzes and knows everything."

College commitments mean Hannah can only attend one of Wales' games but Eryl and husband Alun plan to be in France for the duration.

"There will be a lot of travelling from one place to another but hopefully it will be worth it and we can't wait to go now," Eryl added.

Neil Taylor

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Neil Taylor's devotion to football from an early age has seen him establish himself as a Premier League and international regular.

Born in St Asaph and raised in Ruthin, Denbighshire, Taylor began his career as a youngster at Manchester City but left at 15 and joined Wrexham.

He made his professional debut at Wrexham and it was while he was with the Dragons that he made his Wales debut against Croatia in May 2010.

A few weeks later he joined Swansea City and was part of the team that would secure their place in the Premier League.

"Ever since he was a child that's all he's wanted to do, play football," Shibani Taylor says of her 27-year-old son.

"Even when he was a young boy, he's never veered away from football.

"He missed all his school discos and friends' birthday parties because, at that time, he was playing for Manchester City.

"We'd drive him three times a week to Manchester and back when he was about nine or 10 and not once did he say, 'Mum, do I have to go?'

"He used to sit in the back of the car and do his homework.

"We're going to France to cheer him on. We're hoping they win at least two out of three games. They've got a very good team."

Shibani and husband John will not be the only members of the Taylor family going over to France to support Wales this summer as wife Jenna will also be attending two of the games.

Wales' first appearance at a major tournament since 1958 means Neil and his team-mates will be away from their families for a minimum of four weeks, dependant on Wales' progress.

Taylor returned to hometown Ruthin for a brief visit in between the end of the Premier League season and reporting for Wales duty.

"I'm quite used to Neil being away," Jenna said.

"We'll miss him, but we know he's doing something that's been his dream and we're really supportive.

"We're incredibly proud of him and he's worked really hard. We've seen all the sacrifices he has had to make."

Full interviews with the families of Joe Allen and Ben Davies can be heard in a two part programme, Straeon Bob Lliw - Byd y Belles, on BBC Radio Cymru. Listen to the first episode here. and the second episode will be broadcast on Thursday, 16 June at 12:30 BST.

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