Joe Allen insists Wales have made the right call in returning to the country’s largest arena – and it’s not a case of finance trumping fan atmosphere.
For the first time for seven years, the national football team is back at the Principality Stadium on Wednesday night when they host Spain in a glamourous friendly.
A crowd of at least 55,000 is expected at a venue the FAW abandoned after the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, when players and management convinced the association that reaching tournament finals was more likely if they played within the tighter confines of Cardiff City Stadium.
That suggestion eventually paid off when Wales ended half a century of frustration by going to Euro 2016 in France on the back of raucous and passionate atmospheres generated for matches like the home victory over Belgium.
Former manager Chris Coleman always argued Wales stood a better chance of winning at a club ground than within a larger stadium and for a time even FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford – who arrived from a marketing background at Coco-Cola – accepted that smaller attendances and lower revenue was a price with paying.
But with Wales now much more of an established and mature international team, one capable of attracting big crowds to the Principality Stadium, plus improvements in the pitch surface, Allen believes going back to the stadium makes more sense that just a dash for more cash.
The Stoke midfielder said: “We’ve come a long way since the days when the atmosphere and the performances were questioned.
“I’m sure that’s been behind the decision to play this game there.
“We’ve had great games and great atmospheres at the Cardiff City Stadium in recent years, but we’re looking forward to playing there again.
“For this type of game I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be great.”
Allen has played at the Principality Stadium for Team GB during the 2012 Olympics.
But he was an unused substitute when Wales last played there, a 2-0 defeat to England in Euro 2012 qualifying.
“A lot has happened for Welsh football in that time but I will finally get the chance to play for Wales there,” Allen said.
“I used to go there when I was a kid as I was fortunate that my school went to all the games. There were some great ones and the Italy game (a 2-1 win for Wales in 2002) stands out.
“They were incredible occasions for a kid and inspired me to be one of the players out there in the future.”
Wales are continuing to monitor the fitness of Gareth Bale after the forward came off in the closing stages of Real Madrid’s La Liga defeat at Alaves on Saturday.
Manager Ryan Giggs must also strike the right balance on selection with a Nations League trip to the Republic of Ireland five days later.
“As a player you always hope you to get the chance to test yourself against these teams,” said former Liverpool midfielder Allen, who could come up against the likes of Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, of Bayern Munich, and Atletico Madrid pair Koke and Saul Niguez.
“It is going to be a great challenge and one which will test ourselves to the limits.
“The players are right at the top of world football and a lot of homework has gone into playing them.
“I think there’s a certain element of understanding that you will have long periods where they keep the ball.
“We need to be fully focused and right on top of our game because they are as good defensively as they are with the ball as well.”