DEVASTATED SOUTHGATE: ‘UGO WAS A COLOSSUS’
ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate has led the tributes following the death of his former teammate Ugo Ehiogu.
Ehiogu, who was Tottenham’s Under-23s coach, was taken to hospital on Thursday after collapsing at the club’s training ground. The 44-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest and subsequently died in the early hours of Friday morning.
His death shocked the football world and none more so than England boss Southgate, who formed a centre-back partnership for almost a decade with Ehiogu at Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, winning the League Cup at both.
“I probably played more games with Ugo than anybody else in my career and while in many ways he was a gentle giant away from football, he was a colossus on the pitch,” said Southgate.
“It felt like a true partnership with Ugo because we were prepared to put our bodies on the line for each other.
“We shared highs, lows and won a couple of trophies together with Villa and Boro and it’s those memories that I will always cherish when I think of Ugo.
“He was one of the most professional people I played with in terms of how he applied himself to his job and it was great to see him progressing through the coaching pathway with that thirst for learning.
“I’ve spoken to several of our former team-mates today and there’s just a sense of disbelief that we’re having these conversations.
“Ugo was a credit to football, a credit to his family and he will be missed by everybody who was lucky enough to know him.
“I’m stunned and deeply saddened by Ugo’s passing and my thoughts are with his wife Gemma, his children and his family.”
Current Villa boss Steve Bruce also spoke glowingly about the former England international.
“I played against him and watched him play for many, many years,” said Bruce.
“Big Ron, I believe, bought him for £45,000 – what a bargain that was.
“I had so much admiration for him as a fellow centre-half. He was uncompromising, quick and gave his all every single week – he was a great defender.”
It promises to be an emotional afternoon when Villa host Birmingham in the Second City derby this afternoon.
There will be a minute’s applause in appreciation of Ehiogu, while both sets of players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.
Ehiogu started his career with West Brom, but a cut-price move to Aston Villa in 1991 proved pivotal in his career.
He made 302 appearances in just under a decade at Villa Park, winning the League Cup in 1995-96 and playing in the 2000 FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea.
He then spent seven years at Middlesbrough, winning another League Cup, before spells with Leeds (loan), Rangers and Sheffield United. He also earned four England caps, scoring once.
LEGEND: Ugo Ehiogu celebrates scoring for Aston Villa and, inset, at Spurs