Football is extremely popular in England. We are lucky enough to have nearly 100 professional football clubs in the Premier League and EFL which attract thousands of supporters every week to come and watch some drama unfold.

Lots of people know what it’s like to always be checking the latest score on your phone, or waiting for Match of the Day to come on TV on Saturday evenings, or looking at all of the hilarious statistics about your rival club’s recent form on social media.

But not many know what it’s like to be on the other side of that, the people training hard all week to go out and perform their best under pressure in front of huge crowds. Not many people know what it’s like to play in the Premier League, or in any other top football league.

However, I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak to former Italian midfielder Samuele Dalla Bona about his time playing for Chelsea and what it is like to play at the highest level of English football.

News Shopper:

“Sam” spent 3 years in the senior squad at Chelsea having been signed and brought into their youth setup in October 1998. He gained a reputation for prolific goalscoring in the reserve team and later earnt himself 55 appearances in the first-team, scoring 6 goals. He was part of the pre-Abramovich Chelsea side consisting of world-class players such as Gianfranco Zola, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Dennis Wise that began to push for a regular place in the infamous Champions League around the turn of the millennium.

“I miss London,” he said. “[I had a] nice time in London. Beautiful city, beautiful atmosphere, beautiful everything. London is a fantastic city. Sometimes I come to watch Chelsea and I love it. I still miss Lancaster Gate where my house [was].”

“The big difference [between England and Italy],” he explained, “is the stadium and the atmosphere. In Italy there [are] not so many good stadiums. In England the football is faster and [there is] more power.”

“It’s fantastic to play with [so many] people watching, in England much more [than Italy]. I have great memories with Chelsea, it was my first professional contract.”

“I think [my best memory was] when we won 3-0 at Manchester United – Melchiot, Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen [scored]. For me, [when I was only] 18, [it] was a dream [to win] against people like Veron, Scholes [and] Barthez.”

“Playing with [those] kind of people for me was unbelievable at that age but I realised only after. It was probably a big mistake to leave chelsea.”

“It's been unbelievable for the atmosphere, for the city. I have only thanks to [Claudio] Ranieri (former Chelsea manager) for all my life.”

He added that he still follows Chelsea today and generally has fond memories of his time there.

By Oliver McCabe.