England boss Southgate pays tribute to Ugo Ehiogu after his death
England manager Gareth Southgate described his long-time friend and team-mate Ugo Ehiogu as "a gentleman'' and "a credit to football'' after his death at the age of 44.
Ehiogu collapsed at Tottenham's training centre, where he worked as the club's under-23 coach, on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest and his death was announced on Friday morning.
Southgate had a close bond with Ehiogu, having shared defensive duties with him at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England and the pair won two League Cups together in 1996 and 2004.
"I'm stunned and deeply saddened by Ugo's passing and clearly my initial thoughts are with his wife Gemma, his children and his family,'' Southgate said in a Football Association statement. "I know that football will be grieving because he was so highly respected by everybody he worked with and losing him at such a young age is difficult to come to terms with.
"Most importantly, he was a gentleman and he is one of those characters that people would find it difficult to have anything bad to say about him.
"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. It felt like a true partnership with Ugo because we were prepared to put our bodies on the line for each other.
"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.''
Another of Ehiogu's Villa colleagues, Paul Merson, was unable to finish his own on-air eulogy as emotion got the better of him.
Speaking on Sky Sports as footage of his friend played, former Arsenal favourite Merson said: "Billy Joel sings that song, 'Only the good die young' and that is him.
"He was a top player, a top bloke and a good friend as well. I talked to him recently and he was always winding me up, telling me Tottenham had some good players coming through...''
Boro owner Steve Gibson, on behalf of the Teessiders, said: "He wasn't just a good footballer, he was a great man. It's so sudden and so shocking, my deepest sympathies go to his family and all who knew him.
"Ugo and Gareth Southgate were the rock on which Steve McClaren brought the club its best period in its history. All of Middlesbrough Football Club will miss him.''
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 the midlands club before joining Boro in a then club-record £8 million deal.
He won four England caps and scored in Sven-Goran Eriksson's first match, a 3-0 friendly win over Spain.
Tottenham's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday will see both teams wearing black armbands and holding a minute's applause, with Villa's derby against Birmingham following suit.