DAGGERS ARE GUNNER GO UP
DAGENHAM & Redbridge have already proven their pre-season doubters wrong, but captain Abu Ogogo wants to go one step further – by leading the Daggers to promotion the Arsenal way.
Ogogo is one of three former Gunners academy graduates flourishing in east London – Rhys Murphy and Gavin Hoyte being the others.
And the 24-year-old, who was appointed captain at the start of last season, is out to do more than just avoid relegation.
Last term the Daggers narrowly avoided dropping out of the Football League on goal difference and, in August, were once again tipped for another season of struggle.
But this time round under manager Wayne Burnett, they sit just outside the play-offs.
And with the Gunners influence sharpening the Daggers’ armoury, Ogogo sees no reason why they cannot go up.
“We’re enjoying our football a lot this season, there’s a definite confidence about the way we are playing and that comes from the style of football we try to play,” said Ogogo.
“We try to get the ball down – it’s the way we like to play and the way the boss likes to play.
“It certainly helps that a number of the boys have played with some top academies. There’s me, Gavin and Rhys from Arsenal, but there’s also Billy Bingham from Crystal Palace.
“I played with both Rhys and Gavin at Arsenal, and the club are the best in the country at ingraining that style of play on you from a young age, they stress the need to play football the right way. “To say we were favourites to go down at the start of the season...we’re not doing too bad, and I think the play-offs are a very realistic aim.
“We seem to do much better against the better teams in the league – the ones who also like to get the ball down – whereas we struggle against the more direct ones.
“I think we’ve proven over the course of the season we can mix it with the best, and with the league being so tight a couple of wins in a row will have you right up there.”
Ogogo has impressed since being appointed skipper 18 months ago, but it is 23-year-old striker Murphy who has been hitting the headlines since his move from Dutch side Telstar in the summer.
The Republic of Ireland U21 international had 13 League Two goals before this weekend and last month League One high-flyers Peterborough showed an interest in him.
Murphy turned them down, and Ogogo – who started his career at Wimbledon before moving to north London in 2004 – says he was relieved to see his mate stay.
“Rhys has done really well since joining, and I couldn’t have blamed him if he had moved,” said Ogogo.
“Peterborough showed an interest in him but it wasn’t to be, fortunately for us. He is a great player. Technically he is excellent but it is his movement which stands him out from the rest.
“His main asset is definitely the way he moves around the pitch. He’s quick physically and in the mind.
“I don’t think there’s anyone like him currently playing in League Two, so we’re quite lucky in that respect, but it’s not just him. For me Gavin has been our player of the season so far, and long may it continue.”