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Obituary - Ugo Ehiogu

Fri 21 April 2017, 13:45|Tottenham Hotspur

Ugo Ehiogu is someone who will be remembered with a smile throughout the football landscape. A 20-year playing career saw him make over 500 appearances for some of the biggest clubs in England and Scotland and he was a full international with England.

After calling time on his playing days, he turned his hand to coaching and joined our Academy set-up full-time in July, 2014.

Born in Hackney on November 3, 1972, Ugochuku ‘Ugo’ Ehiogu spent time at the well-known youth football team Senrab FC in east London though it was with West Bromwich Albion that he eventually turned professional having come through their youth ranks as a trainee.

A central defender, he made two substitute appearances for Albion before being signed by Aston Villa in July, 1991, and over the course of the next nine years, he became a lynchpin of their defence. Ugo played 237 times in the league for Villa, scoring 12 goals including a winner against Spurs at White Hart Lane in August, 1995.

In total, he made over 300 appearances in all competitions for them and was part of the Villa team which won the League Cup in 1996, playing in their 3-0 defeat of Leeds United at Wembley Stadium.

Ugo moved to Middlesbrough in November, 2000, his calm, composed nature coupled with his excellent defensive qualities ensuring he once again became a mainstay of their side, re-establishing a partnership at the back with Gareth Southgate, whom he had spent many years playing alongside at Aston Villa.

More League Cup success followed for Ugo at Boro as he played in their 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in the final of 2004, staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and during his seven-year stay on Teesside, he made 126 league appearances and scored seven goals.

After a two-month loan spell with Leeds United in November, 2006, Ugo left Middlesbrough and joined Scottish side Rangers in January, 2007. He only spent a year at Ibrox, though it was during that time that he produced one of the most iconic moments of his career. His first goal for the club was an overhead kick which helped them beat rivals Celtic and was voted by Rangers fans as their ‘goal of the season’.

His playing career drew to a close at Sheffield United, where he spent 18 months and featured 26 times after joining in January, 2008, calling time on his playing days in August, 2009.

Ugo also won four caps for England during his career, making his debut under Terry Venables in a 3-0 friendly win against China in Beijing in May, 1996. He scored his one and only goal for his country in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s first game in charge as England beat Spain 3-0 – ironically at Villa Park – while he also featured as a second-half substitute for the Three Lions at White Hart Lane, in a 2-0 friendly defeat to the Netherlands. His final cap was against Italy in March, 2002.

While completing his coaching badges, Ugo spent time working with our youth teams during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and he was also added to England’s Under-20s backroom staff for their World Cup campaign in the summer of 2013.

He became the full-time coach of our Under-21s - later reclassified as Under-23s - in July, 2014, and for the last three years has selflessly, diligently and enthusiastically played a key role in the development of our young players.

Not once did he boast of his glittering playing career. Working at a level very different to that at which he'd played and excelled, he carried himself with the utmost humility, was a good and willing listener to those inside and outside of our coaching and playing staff and took personal pride in helping each individual player to improve, no detail overlooked during countless hours of training and guidance.

He stuck by his players week in, week out, no matter the results on the field and when it was time to go home, he'd turn away from the exit door and instead go and lend his experience to coaching sessions for our younger age groups.

His passion for the beautiful game shone through every day, reflected in his beaming, unwavering smile.

Away from football, Ugo was passionate about music and following his playing days he helped set up the record label Dirty Hit, whose roster boasts a number of exciting bands and artists.

Ugo passed away on April 21 at the age of 44. The thoughts of everyone at Tottenham Hotspur are with his family and friends at this sad time.