West Ham United defender Angelo Ogbonna seems to divide opinion among fans but he deserves more respect.
Manuel Pellegrini made it clear he saw Italian international Ogbonna as back-up when he arrived in the summer.
The Chilean went out and splashed £30million on the new central defensive pairing Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena.
Both have impressed.
And that saw Ogbonna consigned to a place on the bench until injury struck for Balbuena last month.
Former Juventus defender Ogbonna has always been a player who needs games to get up to full speed, strength and top form.
At times he can appear rusty or off the pace.
Many feel Ogbonna’s time at West Ham is up
But generally he is a hugely dependable and experienced centre half with bags of experience. You don’t play in defence for Italy if you haven’t got something about you after all.
Many West Ham fans feel Ogbonna’s time in East London is up.
And it is clear the former Torino star is all too aware of the scepticism surrounding his ability to perform for the Hammers.
Ogbonna has hit back at his critics on the club’s official website.
Oggie hits back at critics
“Some people don’t understand that it is difficult when a player has to come back to play after a long time out of the team,” he told whufc.com.
“But this is our job and we do not complain.
“At the moment, for me, it’s good and I’m proud because I’m doing what I love.”
Of course supporters are entitled to their opinion on what they are seeing on the pitch.
But some need to remember how selfless Ogbonna has been. And they must also consider that West Ham might struggle to find a player as capable and experienced as back-up if he were to leave.
Ogbonna was immense during West Ham’s farewell season at Upton Park. He helped the club to its best ever Premier League points total as Slaven Bilic’s side finished just four points off the Champions League places.
Then when West Ham were struggling in their first season at the London Stadium fingers were occasionally pointed at Ogbonna.
BT Sport pundit and former Hammers hero Rio Ferdinand didn’t help. He delivered a brutal assessment of Ogbonna after a game against Arsenal accusing him of “ambling” around as West Ham lost 5-1.
At Everton a few weeks before Ogbonna was also far too slow to react to danger and cost his side in a 2-0 defeat.
Of course Ferdinand and West Ham’s supporters were not to know the truth. Not until after the club’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough that was to follow.
It was after that game Bilic – following the £8 million signing of Southampton captain Jose Fonte – revealed Ogbonna was set to go under the knife for a knee operation and would be out for the season.
It was a problem that Ogbonna had been playing through pain with all season.
Selfless Ogbonna deserves lasting respect
Playing through pain for the club, for the manager, for his teammates with a serious injury which clearly had been impeding his ability to get around the pitch in the way he and his fans had become accustomed.
Ogbonna risked ridicule, his reputation and his future for West Ham that season and not once did he use it as an excuse for his or the team’s poor performances.
The selflessness of Ogbonna’s act, let’s not beat around the bush the player may well have been risking his career, deserves widespread recognition and applause.
Especially at at time when one of his teammates Marko Arnautovic is declaring himself ‘not in a fit state of mind’ to play for the club despite a glut of injuries.
He has rarely let West Ham down and deserves respect from the club and fans.