Tributes for Ugo Ehiogu have been poring in all day but few were as heartbreaking as Paul Merson’s as the TV pundit fought back his tears during his tribute to his friend on Sky Sports News.
A truly touching tribute to Ugo Ehiogu from Paul Merson on Sky Sports News: pic.twitter.com/21GD3iZRqr
— Coral (@Coral) April 21, 2017
The world of football is mourning former England defender Ugo Ehiogu who has died aged 44.
Ehiogu, who was Tottenham’s Under-23s coach, collapsed at the club’s training centre on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Former clubs and team-mates have paid tributes to a “gentle giant”, whose death was announced by Tottenham this morning.
“It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of Ugo Ehiogu,” the club said.
Ehiogu, who played for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough and was capped by England on four occasions, joined Spurs as a coach in 2014.
Spurs’ head of coaching and player development, John McDermott, said: “Words cannot express the sadness that we all feel at the club. Ugo’s immense presence will be irreplaceable.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Gemma and his family.”
Spurs also added their thanks to the North Middlesex University Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield Hospital.
Lee Hendrie played with Ehiogu at Villa and then later in his career at Sheffield United.
“This is an absolute shock, to think this could happen to a man of his fitness and age. It is devastating, crazy,” he told Sky Sports.
“He was such a character, bubbly and would help anyone. He was a great guy to have around and never had problems with anyone. He was a gentle giant.”
Ehiogu’s caring nature became further apparent from the final tweet sent from his Twitter account.
Gave a homeless girl £10 last night in Dalston.She didn't ask or beg.Random impulsive act from me. Not gona lie. Felt good. #dosomethingkind— Ugo Ehiogu (@UgoEhiogu) March 29, 2017
“Gave a homeless girl £10 last night in Dalston,” he wrote on March 29. “She didn’t ask or beg. Random impulsive act from me. Not gonna lie, felt good. #dosomethingkind.”
Ehiogu began his career as a trainee at West Brom before he was taken to Villa by Ron Atkinson in 1991. He went on to feature in more than 300 matches for Villa and played in their FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea in 2000.
He won the League Cup with Villa in 1994 and 1996 and former team-mate Andy Townsend told Radio 5: “I remember the 3-0 win over Leeds (in 1996) and I looked at the pictures this morning. Ugo is in them celebrating.
“He was commanding and formidable in the air. He was a player that every team would have liked at the back.”
MFC are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of our former player Ugo Ehiogu. Our thoughts go out to Ugo's friends and family. pic.twitter.com/GDz8lqJJFF— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) April 21, 2017
Ehiogu joined Middlesbrough for a then club-record £8million fee later that year, and in 2001 he scored his only goal for England in Sven Goran-Eriksson’s first game in charge, a 3-0 friendly victory against Spain.
The Football Association tweeted it was “devastated to hear the news” and further tributes from the governing body were expected, with England manager Gareth Southgate having played with Ehiogu for both Villa and Boro.
Villa released a statement expressing their sadness and added that there would be a minute’s applause ahead of their derby with Birmingham on Sunday, with the teams wearing black armbands.
Boro said they were “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing” and Mark Schwarzer, who played with Ehiogu at the Riverside, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He loved the game and he was really respected at Tottenham. It was a pleasure to play with him.”
Knee injuries plagued the final years of Ehiogu’s career at the Riverside Stadium.
He joined Leeds on loan in 2006, and also had short spells with Rangers and Sheffield United before he retired from football in 2009.
Striker Shayon Harrison, currently on loan at Yeovil from Tottenham, played under Ehiogu in his Under-23 side.
“One of the most genuine and caring people I’ve ever met,” he wrote on Twitter.
“An honour to have been taught by you, not only as a player but as a person.”