This season we have been reflecting on 10 Years at Oteley Road - to celebrate this we will be bringing you an exclusive interview with a player from the last decade daily during June. Today it is Abu Ogogo!
A former Player of the Season, Captain for almost half of his 100+ appearances and an influential figure in Town’s midfield over the last three years, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Abu Ogogo partners Ryan Woods in the team of the last 10 years.
However, when he arrived from Dagenham and Redbridge in 2015 it was a big change for the then 25-year-old who had spent six seasons with the Daggers, as he explains.
“Obviously Micky Mellon was in charge at the time, he gave me a call, I saw the facilities, met everybody, everyone was really friendly, I got a good feel for the club and the area, and it was an easy decision in the end”, Ogogo told Town Talk.
“It was very different to Dagenham. It’s obviously a bigger club, better resources, and I thought it was a good platform for me play football. I’d lived in London all my life, so for me to move away was a big step, but I loved the area, so it was an easy decision in the end.
“I’d obviously got promoted with Dagenham from League Two to League One but unfortunately we got relegated the next year, so stepping back into League One and playing with the players that were already here – Woodsy, Connor, etc. – I knew I had to up my game and I felt like I did that.”
Ogogo quickly became a fans favourite with his all action displays and he was part of the side that reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in the 2015/16 season.
“We obviously played against better teams, better players, better grounds, bigger crowds, so that was a very good season”, Abu said.
“The FA Cup run was very good - that was very enjoyable. The game against Manchester United was actually a bit disappointing, I don’t think we did ourselves justice on the day.
“Looking back now I don’t actually think I touched the ball. I remember I was blowing after about 10 minutes and I looked at Blacky and thought ‘Wow! This is going to be a long afternoon’, but to be on the same pitch as Mata was a good experience, even though the game didn’t go to plan.”
Town avoided relegation that season with a game to spare and Abs was hopeful of better times to come, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way straight away.
“I’d played against Doddsy before, Adam El-Abd had played at a high level, and the others, so I thought they were going to be good additions to the squad”, said Ogogo.
“Sometimes you can have good players but when you put them together as a team it doesn’t work. I don’t think we were really a team at the time, we were more a group of individuals getting thrown together and I think you could tell that on the pitch.
“The environment wasn’t quite right and sometimes the characters clashed. I think what Paul Hurst has been good at has been bringing in team spirit, which is massive. He’s brought in the right characters as well as good players and you can tell that by the results on the pitch.”
The poor results led to Micky Mellon losing his job, but Ogogo enjoyed his time working under Mellon.
“I will always be thankful for him for bringing me to the club”, Abs said.
“I remember when he left I gave him a call to say thanks for everything. He was very good with me, very laid back, but at the same time he would get onto me if I wasn’t playing well. He would stay out with me after training and help improve my game, so he was a big influence on my career.”
Paul Hurst replaced Mellon at the Town help and Abs explains the impact the Gaffer has had over the last 18 months.
“He came in, we were struggling and the job he’s done is incredible”, admitted Ogogo.
“He’s obviously brought in his own players, got rid of the ones he didn’t want and brought in the right characters as well. He’s easy to talk to, I can talk to him about off the field stuff, he’s very laid back, he’s a good man manager and he’s easy to approach.
“It was nice of him to make me feel like a big part of his plans, make me feel valued, make me captain etc. It’s nice obviously for the manager to have faith in you and you want to work hard to repay that faith he had in you.
“We were dead and buried at one point. We played Northampton at home, we didn’t have a manager, we lost 4-2 and I think we looked a relegated team then. The mood was low, the camp was down, we couldn’t really buy a win, so for the Gaffer to come in and change that worked wonders.”
Town survived and Paul Hurst set about trying to create a team that the people of Shrewsbury could be proud of. Abu believes that the pre-season campaign was key to the success that followed.
“He came in and said that he didn’t expect us to be fighting relegation this season, which was good to hear”, Ogogo said.
“I think going away to Portugal was a big thing. It was good for team spirit because we were with each other for a week, we were playing golf together, training three times a day together, eating together, sharing rooms with people you wouldn’t normally share rooms with, so that all helped.
“To then go 15 games unbeaten was unheard of for a team that was fighting relegation the season before, and to be in the top three for the whole season as well, I didn’t expect that, but its credit to the boys, the managers, the physios and everyone at the club.”
It was all going swimmingly for Ogogo and he was set to lead Town out at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy Final. That was until disaster struck and he was injured in a tackle with Bryn Morris. The injury revealed that Ogogo would miss the run in, something he was devastated by.
“It was devastating” Abs admitted.
“It happened on the Sunday in training and it’s similar to last season’s injury, so I knew I was struggling a little bit and to hear I was out for the rest of the season was disappointing, but luckily I will be fully fit for pre-season.
“Wembley was just round the corner, so I was gutted that I wasn’t going to play there. Luckily, I’ve played there once before and won, so it wasn’t as bad, but you want to play there as many times as you can.
“There were also big games before and after that as well with the Play-Offs, so that will be very frustrating, but hopefully the boys can get us over the line.”
However, like any good leader, Abu has no plans to give up on his teammates. He may be injured, but he remains a fundamental part of the group and will be cheering them on as they search for Play-Off glory.
“I’m very confident that they can do it”, said Ogogo.
“I see them every day in training and I know the quality we’ve got, the attitude that we’ve got, and I’m very confident that we can get promoted.
“I’m still around the boys, I’m in the changing room, so nothing really changes there. The only thing that really changes is that I’m not out on the pitch, but I will be with them before the games, at half-time, after the games, so nothing really changes for me.
“I’m not the greatest spectator to be honest. I want to be out there helping the boys, so for me not be physically able to do that is very frustrating, but I just really want the boys to win.
“We deserve it for the hard work we have put in this season and hopefully, fingers crossed, we can do it.”