Angelo Ogbonna exclusive interview: David Moyes made West Ham known around the world

Stalwart: Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham)
Stalwart: Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham)

Few are better placed to compare the pre-, inter- and soon-to-be post-David Moyes eras than Angelo Ogbonna, West Ham servant of almost a decade on the cusp of his 250th game in claret and blue.

“It’s a totally different club,” the defender tells Standard Sport. “I think he leaves the club in a strong position, a really strong position compared to when I came in.

“Even behind the scenes, everything, every department has grown. After we won the [Conference League], I think West Ham became known around the world.”

Ogbonna, like all of West Ham’s players, was on a day off last week when confirmation came that Moyes would be leaving at the end of his contract this summer.

Ogbonna has had a run in the team of late (Getty Images)
Ogbonna has had a run in the team of late (Getty Images)

“I think not just my reaction, but anyone who really loves football and who understands football, would be a little bit sad after this news,” he says. “For what he brought to the club, how the club has changed since he was involved. In the end, we’re human beings, we’re not robots. I think most of us are really sad for the person.”

Were you to piece together the quintessential Moyesian West Ham XI there would be a fair case for Ogbonna taking his place at centre-back but this season he has made only seven league starts, three of those in the last three games following injuries to Konstantinos Mavropanos and Nayef Aguerd.

About to turn 36 and coming to the end of his own contract, the Italian’s future is less certain than that of his outgoing manager heading into Sunday’s final game of the season, away at Manchester City, where that landmark club appearance could also be his last.

There is an acceptance at West Ham that an ageing backline must be revamped this summer and at the time of this interview Ogbonna had not yet been approached over a new deal.

“Everyone knows how committed I’ve been to the cause, everyone knows my position now,” he says. “I always try to do my best, to be professional and whatever comes, I will respect the decision.”

You need to deal with a lot of pressure. Sometimes it can be respectful but most of the time it’s never respectful

Angelo Ogbonna

That there is even a possibility of Ogbonna continuing as a Premier League footballer is a testament to that professionalism; when he tore his ACL in November 2021 while already aged 32 many doubted whether he would get back to the top level. Does he still feel, physically, as if he has more to give?

“Yeah,” he says, without hesitation. “I always manage myself. I didn’t expect to come back from my injury like this but I actually feel much better since I got injured.

“At my age, it’s about conserving myself, with my training, stretching a lot, whatever helps me.”

Nonetheless, Ogbonna already has one eye on the more distant future. He has recently started work on his coaching badges and is talking to Standard Sport at a session run by West Ham, in partnership with Luton Town, for the club’s talented junior intake of South Asian descent.

“Anything around football, I want to learn,” he explains. “You never stop learning. In life, I want to leave all the doors open. But before you can do that, you have to learn, you have to practice, you have to make mistakes. Without that, you can never grow.”

He runs through a list of his coaching influences, not only the likes of Moyes, Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini in east London, but also greats like Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri from his time at Juventus and with the Italian national team.

Angelo Ogbonna harbours hopes of becoming a manager (West Ham)
Angelo Ogbonna harbours hopes of becoming a manager (West Ham)

“[You learn] who’s defensive, who’s attacking, who likes holding the ball, how they structure the team, how they structure the club,” he explains. “It’s important to have a very wide view of that.

“They give more chance [to managers] in Italy - maybe because they give a good presentations! [But] something really important that we have is that passion. That never goes from our veins.”

No one who has watched Moyes in the West Ham technical area over the past four-and-a-half seasons could argue he is not blessed and infected with the same disease. Instead, the chief and sustained criticism has been concerning his style of play, in spite of the inarguable success of three seasons in Europe and a first major trophy in 43 years.

Does the scrutiny, and at times outright abuse, he has seen Moyes endure make Ogbonna think twice about his own aspirations?

"To be honest, not really,” he replies, after some thought. “That’s part of football. You need to deal with a lot of pressure, whatever you’re doing. Sometimes it can be respectful but most of the time it’s never respectful.

“Football, like life, is very unpredictable, you never know what’s around the corner. It’s normal. Before becoming a manager, you’re probably a football player, playing with that pressure. Sometimes that pressure drives you on.”