WHO Poll
Q: 2022/23 You are the Chairman what do you do with Moyes?
a. Stick with him obviously, he's delivered two good seasons back to back and will see us out of this dip in form
b. If we're still lingering around the bottom three by the start of the WC then that's the time to get rid
c. What are we waiting for 2 wins in the last 20 PL games is reason enough to sack him, go now
d. I've just got my new Orange & White 3rd Kit with Moyesinho on the back, I can't wait to wear it down to the supermarket, they call me Mr West Ham around here

Irish Hammer 10:58 Mon May 31
Angelo Ogbonna, A Proper Leader.
Proper leader’ Angelo Ogbonna has found his inner Chiellini at West Ham

By Roshane Thomas Jun 18, 2020 16
“The day before the game, the coach asked if I was going to include a young player in the team,” says Alberto Zaccheroni recalling the moment he gave an 18-year-old Angelo Ogbonna his first-team debut for Torino. “I told the coach, ‘Tomorrow Angelo will play’. He said, ‘Angelo? Who is Angelo?’ And I told him, ‘He’s one of the young players in the academy’.

“The coach asked me again, ‘Why Angelo?’ And I told him, ‘He’s a good player and he deserves an opportunity’. Then the coach told me, ‘You’re crazy!’ At the time a lot of people didn’t rate Angelo.”

This is the story of Ogbonna’s journey to West Ham. The tale of how a player who will be crucial to their survival hopes was once doubted by coaches at Torino but rated by Antonio Conte. How the “catastrophic” atmosphere hindered his chances at Juventus, how one coach believes he “should be captain of the national team”, and how his West Ham team-mates believe he has become a “proper leader” — even if they do have the occasional row.

Ogbonna grew up in Cassino in the southern province of Frosinone and joined local club Nuovo Cassino before moving 500 miles north west to Turin in 2002, at the age of 14, to join Torino’s academy. He showed ability but was by no means the star. It was Zacceroni who spotted his potential and, as he explained, handed the defender his debut for Torino against Reggina on 11 February 2007.

“When I asked the coach which young player deserves a place in the first team, he told me three or four players I should look at but he didn’t mention Angelo,” Zaccheroni tells The Athletic. “When I first saw Angelo in training I asked one of the coaches, ‘Who is this young player?’ He impressed me a lot.

“So he deserved his chance against Reggina and he played very well. In my managerial career I’ve trained a lot of players and Angelo ranks high. He was such a great player to work with.”

Ogbonna’s determination to prove people wrong is one of the reasons why he is loved by supporters at West Ham, who he joined in the summer of 2015 from Juventus.

His four-and-a-half-year spell hasn’t always been plain sailing and the mindset he showed to make it at Torino is the same he showed when things were not going his way under former manager Manuel Pellegrini. Cast your mind back to the opening game of the season: Fabian Balbuena partnered Issa Diop at the heart of defence, with Ogbonna left to sit on the bench and watch as Manchester City scored five goals at the London Stadium.

Ogbonna soon earned his place back but after the 2-0 defeat at Everton in October, he was dropped for the next three games against Sheffield United, Newcastle United and Burnley. Without him, West Ham looked even more disjointed at the back. In those matches, they conceded seven goals, including direct errors from Balbuena and Roberto in the 3-0 defeat by Burnley.

Yet on the eve of the run-in, Ogbonna has gone from third-choice centre-back to one of West Ham’s most important players under David Moyes. They have not won any of the five Premier League games he has missed this season, while they have averaged 0.9 more points per game with him than without him. And as the chart below shows, his individual contributions have been hugely significant too.

All eyes will be on Sebastien Haller, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen once West Ham’s season resumes against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, but it is Ogbonna’s leadership and calmness in defence that has prevented West Ham from being in the relegation zone.

His performances have not gone unnoticed. In The Athletic’s West Ham supporter survey in April he finished second to Declan Rice in the voting for the club’s player of the year, while in the dressing room they believe Ogbonna has been the lead performer.

“Angelo is a terrific lad, first and foremost,” West Ham midfielder Robert Snodgrass tells The Athletic. “He’s a winner. He wears his heart on his sleeve and I believe he’s been our best player this season.

“He’s been great and I think he’s a great lad to have about the place. All the boys love him and all the staff really like him also. For me, I’ve loved my relationship with Angelo over the three years I’ve been here and the more players you have like him, the better.”

During Ogbonna’s seven-year spell at Torino, he played under eight different managers and while his fortunes fluctuated his commitment didn’t waver. “He was a key player for me and back then, like all young players, he had to work on the tactical aspects of the game, but with time Angelo improved,” says Giancarlo Camolese, who also coached Ogbonna during his brief spell in charge of Torino in 2009 as they slipped into Serie B.

Camolese speaks warmly of Ogbonna and of his character, even teasing that they “used to have a right laugh about his driving skills”, though one incident in 2008 almost ended in tragedy when the defender fell asleep at the wheel after a night game and crashed in thick fog. “I’m lucky to even be here,” he reflected last year. It is a moment he says still reminds him to “respect life. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.

It is hard to draw similarities between West Ham and Turin but Ogbonna’s experiences of Torino and the London Stadium do share a couple of similarities — the precarious nature of the manager’s job and the supporters’ love for one of their own.

Gianni De Biasi, the former manager of Torino, says: “He was a great trainer and always worked hard in training. The fans at Torino loved him because he progressed through the academy. He was like one of their own so they were always supportive of Angelo.”

That support did not extend to everyone inside the club but in Zaccheroni he had a very important ally, whose intervention would eventually lead to him joining Juventus.

Zaccheroni left Torino in 2007 but stayed in contact with Ogbonna and recommended the defender to his current agent.

“When I was manager of Japan, I met the Italian agent Giovanni Branchini at a hotel in Tokyo,” he says. “It was before Japan v Argentina in 2010. I told him in Italy when I managed Torino, Ogbonna was one of the best players, but for some reason people at Torino think the opposite. Then Branchini became Ogbonna’s agent and a few years after Torino sold Angelo to Juventus.”

It was in 2013 when Ogbonna, who won the first of his 13 Italy caps in 2011, joined Juventus, then managed by Antonio Conte. But the animosity between Torino and Juventus meant Ogbonna initially found it difficult settling in at the club. It is Italy’s oldest derby, known as Derby della Mole, and the fierce rivalry between both sets of supporters is on par with the unsavoury scenes whenever West Ham and Millwall face each other.

“There were a lot of big players in Angelo’s position like Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli,” says De Biasi. “But the problem is when Angelo arrived from Torino the relationship between both clubs wasn’t good. In fact, it was a catastrophic situation. If Juventus go to Torino it’s bad and vice versa.”

Angelo Alessio was Conte’s assistant manager at Juventus between 2011-14. He also held that role when Conte became manager of Chelsea between 2016-18. During Ogbonna’s two-year spell at Juventus he won Serie A twice and the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia. Although he was not a regular in the first team, Alessio believes Ogbonna would have benefited from his experience at the club.

“When I was at Chelsea I followed Angelo closely,” says Alessio. “I think it’s important for him to play every game because a few years ago he played a few times at Juventus. He would play and then go on the bench. This season he’s played a lot for West Ham and he’s been one of their best players.

“Antonio wanted Angelo at Juventus because he’s a good defender, but there were a lot of good defenders so it was very tough for Angelo to play a lot of games. In Torino he would’ve played all the time so it was for Angelo to challenge himself because Juventus would’ve been a good experience for him.”

Transferring between bitter rivals may have made it harder for Ogbonna to make the most of his big move to Juventus but Zaccheroni, whose admiration for the defender is clear, believes it was not solely down to external factors.

“My only issue with Ogbonna was he needed to be more ambitious,” he says. “If he played he was OK, if he didn’t play he was OK. I saw Angelo a few years ago at the airport. Angelo was happy to see me and I told him, ‘I am arrabbiato [angry] with you. You should be captain of the national team’.

“That’s how much I rate him but back then if he plays he’s happy, if he doesn’t play he’s still happy. If Angelo had 20 per cent of Giorgio Chiellini’s character he would probably be captain for the national team. Chiellini has that desire to win and that was the only thing missing from Ogbonna’s game at the time. But it’s not a surprise that he’s doing well at West Ham.”

Chiellini and Ogbonna on Italy duty in 2014 (Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
It is a cutting criticism, one it would appear is born out of Zaccheroni’s desire to see Ogbonna fulfil his potential. It is also one that seems to have now registered with and been rectified by the defender, who turned 32 last month and whose contract runs until 2022.

“His level and his concentration level from the first year I was here, he’s really worked on being a proper leader this season and you can see that with some of his performances,” says Snodgrass.

“We’ve had our fallouts, me and Angelo. We’re winners and wear our heart on our sleeve but the two of us are close mates. We have a great relationship along with Mark Noble, Cresswell, Zabaleta, the older ones in the squad, really just trying to set a good example and be good role models for the next generation coming through, because we’ve got some great talent.”

Ogbonna is a well-liked member of the team, he has a close relationship with Mark Noble and also gets on well with the kitman James “Jamo” Saban. He has two children, Samuel and Nora, with wife Laura.

The Ogbonna family (Instagram)
After the 3-1 home win over Southampton in February, Ogbonna left with the match ball and gave it to his young son, Samuel, while Pablo Zabaleta, in a jocular mood, shouted, “You didn’t even score a hat-trick!”

He has played 26 games in all for West Ham this season, has played the second-most Premier League minutes of any West Ham player (behind Rice) and his two goals have come against big teams: Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

It is those sort of games in particular in which Ogbonna has thrived. In the 1-0 win over Chelsea in November, Ogbonna made 10 clearances, the most by anyone on the pitch and more than the Chelsea defence combined.

“Joining West Ham was a good decision and this has been the best period in Ogbonna’s career,” says Alessio. “He’s shown he can be a leader for West Ham and if the Euros wasn’t postponed there is a big chance he would’ve been in the squad.”

With West Ham set to play Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea in their first three games of the restart they will need this big-game performer to be at his best, perhaps channelling a little Chiellini.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

gph 5:02 Mon May 31
Re: Angelo Ogbonna, A Proper Leader.
We just had a slightly easier battle against relegation!

We're still in the bottom 15.

torino hammer 4:44 Mon May 31
Re: Angelo Ogbonna, A Proper Leader.
Its a pity being a year out of date but much of the story holds true. Being left out of the Italian squad which he is unhappy about is only a West Ham bonus. Having been at a few Juve/Toro derbies I understand how it was difficult for him but why oh why sign for Juve merda! after being a Toro youth product. I suppose its like the loss of Carrick, Cole, Ferdinand etc

southbankbornnbred 11:38 Mon May 31
Re: Angelo Ogbonna, A Proper Leader.
This is interesting - but a year out of date, so too long to bother with considering that this predicts a looming battle against relegation and the importance of Haller to the team(!).

Summary: Ogbonna has defied predictions about his career and become an important player for us.

The rest is puff and waffle with a layer of dust on it.

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