Like everyone else I was stunned to hear of the sudden passing of Ugo yesterday. I remember him as a solid giant of a defender for Aston Villa and went I learnt he was a Spurs supporter I did hope he would join us when he left them. That was not to be as he moved to Middlesborough, he did however join the club’s coaching staff in 2014.
His regular interviews on Spurs TV show how passionate he was about the game, sometimes finding it hard to hide the disappointment if the team had not played as well as he hoped. Some of the few times he could be found without a beaming smile on his face. He insisted the game be played the right way. In 2013 he said “If you come to watch games at Tottenham, in particular at development level, you will notice how we try and play, in a certain way with a certain style. My hope is to see an England team that tries to play flowing interchangeable football, that can mix it with the best teams through physique and technique. It’s the way forward.”
Born in nearby Hackney of Nigerian heritage it is than a surprise when he was picked up by West Bromwich, then after turning professional he quickly moved on to Aston Villa. Whilst there he twice won the League Cup, and it was at Villa Park he would score his only England goal in a win over Spain.
After his move to Middlesborough in 2000 he formed a central defensive partnership with fellow Spurs fan Gareth Southgate and the club won the only major trophy, the League Cup again, in the clubs history. Later he had a spell with Leeds before going to Glasgow Rangers. Here he scored their goal of the season in 2007 with an overhead kick that many a forward would be pleased with. He finishing his playing days at Sheffield United before retiring in 2004.
He experienced a number of injuries during his career otherwise he would certainly have won more than the four caps he did for his country. One of those came in the game at White Hart Lane V Holland in 2002.
After joining our coaching staff he also worked with England’s under 20 side in 2013 at the age related World Cup. The following year he became our Under 21 coach, which then changed to under 23’s.
He quickly became a well respected coach and the genuine tributes that have flowed since his passing reflect the way he influenced so many young players. Many of his young charges referring to him as a father figure, both on and off the pitch. These were matched by some extremely moving tributes from his playing days. Many remarking what a gentle caring soul he was off the pitch.
This weekend will see all his old clubs pay their respects, none more so than at Wembley where both teams will be wearing black arm bands and their will be a minutes celebration of his life.
Away from football Ugo’s other great passion apart form his family was music and he was the co-founder of the ’Dirty Hit’ music label. Co-founder Jamie Oboorne said he had been blessed to know him.
Our most sincere condolences go his wife and two young children.
Ugochuku ‘Ugo’ Ehiogu, one of our own.
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