“Psychologically, it feels like relief, because at the end of the day, we are like a family,” Angelo Ogbonna says of seeing some of his West Ham United teammates for the first time since lockdown commenced.
“We normally spend most of the time all together, having banter and talking about things, not just football. When you come back you feel like you’re coming back home, so I think it’s very good for us.”
I’m totally happy with the protocol that we are following, because I think the medical staff make sure that everything is going to be in the right way, so I’m OK with that
With Premier League clubs earlier this week returning to small group training, following a protocol agreed by all 20 clubs, independent experts and the Government, Ogbonna was this week reunited with a small number of his teammates – his friends – at Rush Green.
All players and staff were subject to a number of measures in place at West Ham United – including a health screening and temperature check tent upon arrival at Rush Green – which go above and beyond the Government and Premier League recommendations.
Prior to small group training beginning, players and staff also underwent their first of two weekly COVID-19 tests at Rush Green the preceding weekend.
Most importantly, therefore, the Italian defender and his teammates returned in safety and, in Ogbonna’s words, a place of security.
“I’m totally happy with the provisions at Rush Green and with the medical staff. I’m totally happy with the protocol that we are following, because I think the medical staff make sure that everything is going to be in the right way, so I’m OK with that.
“As a football player, you need a pitch, you need someone to play against. Some players live in apartments, while some players are lucky and have a garden and a place to run.
“Riding a bike is not the same as having a garden or a ball at your feet. Running in a straight line is very different to having a change of direction. All of our players came back fit, but with a ball it’s a little bit different.”
While an Italy international, a European Championship runner-up, a two-time Serie A-winning defender and a figurehead of West Ham United’s defence, Ogbonna is – first and foremost – a human being.
His call of compassion in a challenging time is not only salient regarding his football, but naturally his family – both those based in London and his native Italy.
“I’m so glad I’m surrounded by good people and all my family,” he said. “I live here and half of my family is here.
“I think the NHS are doing fantastic work and that makes me feel safe, and even in Italy it’s the same.
“It’s just a strange situation; but when something strange happens and you don’t know how to fight your enemy, you feel a little bit unstable. In that moment you are concerned about real things, not just football, work or whatever, but it’s something you don’t know how to fight.
“For me, to be fair, now I feel relief that things are going better. It [the coronavirus] is still our enemy, it’s still out there, so we are trying to do things in the right way.”
I think we showed that and we were going in the right way; even though some results weren’t going our way, I think our performances were totally different
Should Premier League fixtures resume in the weeks to come, Ogbonna and his West Ham United side will be looking to further the momentum they were beginning to gather under manager David Moyes prior to the 2019/20 season’s suspension back in March.
In order to do so, Ogbonna knows that each and every Iron will need to put in maximum effort to accumulate points and pull themselves clear of the drop zone.
“We have to fight hard,” Ogbonna said. “Since David Moyes came in we knew what we needed to do, and I think it was very important for us to step up.
“For him it wasn’t easy, when you come in and the team is struggling, and like he did before, he showed us what we needed to do to step up.
“I think we showed that and we were going in the right way; even though some results weren’t going our way, I think our performances were totally different. Everyone could see that.
“I think, over a long process, that will have an affect on the table – and on the pitch.”