England manager Gareth Southgate says he is “stunned” by the death of former team-mate Ugo Ehiogu.
Former England defender Ehiogu died at the age of 44 on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest the previous day.
Southgate and Ehiogu formed a centre-back pairing for almost 10 years at Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, winning the League Cup together at both clubs.
“He was a gentle giant away from football, he was a colossus on the pitch,” Southgate said.
Ehiogu, who was Tottenham’s Under-23s coach, was taken to hospital on Thursday after collapsing at the club’s training ground, but a statement said he had died in the early hours of Friday morning.
Capped four times by England, Ehiogu made over 200 appearances for Villa between 1991 and 2000 and then spent seven years at Boro. The defender also played for West Brom, Leeds, Rangers and Sheffield United, before retiring in 2009.
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‘A sense of disbelief’ – Southgate’s statement in full:
“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.
“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.
“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.”