Classic11 Football Blog

Ugochukwu Ehiogu won’t be name that will go down in history as one of the greats in football. But ask any professional who played with him or against will tell you that he was a giant.

A £40,000 fee back in 1991 paid by Ron Atkinson again won’t show up on any mega deals lists. But as bargains go, it should always be mentioned. A replacement for the maturing Shaun Teale, he would eventually form a partnership with the legendary Paul McGrath and then his long term defensive partner Gareth Southgate.

His debut for Villa wasn’t spectacular, a ‘nightmare start’ against Norwich City. But 5 years later and now a permanent fixture in the Villa back line, McGrath and Himself would bring silver wear to Villa Park in the form of the League Cup win at Wembley against Leeds.

He made over 300 in all competitions and was part of the squad who played Chelsea in the last ever F.A Cup final at the old Wembley. Losing 1-0 seemed to make him want to join pastures new. This lead to a £8million move to Middlesbrough.

After a five-minute debut, a calf injury forced him off at Charlton, and then bedding down a place in the team he was joined by his teammate from Villa Gareth Southgate.

Another League cup final beckoned for Ugo. He had missed much of the 03-04 with a knee injury, but came back in time for final in Wales. A second minute Job goal and then a lucky Zenden penalty gave Ehiogu his second winners medal.

England call ups would have been more had a few things gone for him. Injuries and heavy competition from the Likes of Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Jamie Carragher and Martin Keown meant his four caps was spread over many years. Though he did score in Sven Goran Eriksson’s first game against Spain. He can even be forgiven for wearing gloves that’s night.

After spending a short loan spell at Leeds united, he moved to Rangers and became an instant hero, scoring an overhead kick against Celtic. This goal was even voted by the fans as goal of the season.

Retirement came after playing for Wembley in the F.A Cup early qualifying rounds.

He was part of the England U20 coaching side headed up by Peter Taylor in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. And then after a short part-time stint at Tottenham’s academy he was offered a role as under 23 manager on a permanent basis.

He held the role for nearly four years, and seeing the tweets and messages coming from many of the players, Ugo wasn’t just a popular coach but as a person as well. He came across like he did on the pitch, very calm and yet very authoritative.

His other passion in life, family aside, was music. He set up a label called Dirty Hit which founded the band 1975.

Since he passed on Friday morning the tributes have flooded in. Even Spurs fans felt for poor Paul Merson being hauled in front of the sky sports cameras, when it was obvious he was still in a state of shock.

Yet, as Paul said, all the good ones die young.

 

RIP Ugo.

(*Yes, it’s more than the usual 6, but It’s my list so I can what I want)

With the usual suspects coming out for this year’s nominations, I thought to myself, ‘It’s always who scores loads of goals and maybe the odd token midfielder’.

Never do we really see goalkeepers or defenders have a chance to hold aloft a trophy that looks a lot like the Open Championship in golf one. So to redress the balance I’ve decided to produce a list I reckon is for the real heroes, the goalies who throw themselves about week in week out. The galloping full backs whose lungs near breaking point at the end of each game, the central defenders who put with Diego Costa’s nonsense.

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1) Kyle Walker & Danny Rose:

Yes a two for one to start things of with. Like Xavi and Iniesta, you can’t really have one without the other. Both have engines the size of trains and keep going running like Usain Bolt on a sugar rush. I know if I ran as fast as they do up a pitch I’d lose all sense of where I was, get dizzy and pass out, yet they both gallop like Grand National winners and still have the composure to cross the ball to Alli or Kane. No coincidence that Man City need two full backs, HANDS OFF PEP!

 

2) Jordan Pickford:

After the season he has had most people would be in therapy. Back ache must be an issue for every time he is picking the ball out the net. Hands blistered from save after save. Also having a manager that at the beginning of the season more or less said that they would be relegated could not have installed much confidence in the young lad. Yet he has risen like a phoenix from the ashes to become a future England number one. Forget La La Land or Moonlight, this is your true Oscar winning story.

 

3) Ben Mee:

With a name that belongs on CBEEBIES, the Burnley centre back has come on leaps and bounds this year. I would like to think most of us have a soft spot for Burnley, Joey Barton aside obviously. And with Ben in the side, children in Burnley can finally answer the question, who is your favourite Burnley player? By shouting ‘MEE!’

 

4) Michael Keane:

How many times will it take Man Utd to learn that the ones they let go, more often than not, grow into better footballers than the ones they keep? Keane could end up back at Old Trafford and still be the best centre back they have. England call up deserved it’s another shot in the arm for defenders.

 

5) Adam Lallana:

The Liverpool player has done well since those dodgy Nivea adverts first aired. Voted for as England’s player of the year for 2016. Which to be fair even I was up for. Silky skills and a smooth face have propelled the former Saint to heavenly status.

 

6) David Luiz:

Sideshow Dave deserves a lot of credit for managing to get Chelsea to first part with a heap of cash for his services and making people believe he can play in a back three. Sadly, for me anyway, he has proved the latter correct. Though prone still to the odd crazy moment, he has seemed calmer and therefore a better player this time round. Uncle Bob would be proud.

 

7) Victor Moses:

Going from Chelsea/ Wigan/ Liverpool reject to Chelsea right wing hero is no mean going. You got the feeling he would have played left back if it meant regular football. Conte saw something that no one ever has seen before, and knowing poor Victors luck, will sign someone else for next season.

 

8) David Silva:

The calm in the Pep sized storm. I still though he was 28 but he is now football old at 31. He is one of those players every other team secretly would like in their own.

Leicester city were never going to win the league this season. That much is obvious. But what has happened over the last few weeks has got me thinking about the situation they find themselves in.

I want to go back first to the night Tottenham drew with Chelsea. Sky had cameras all convened to Jamie Vardy’s party. In my time watching football it was the first time this had been shown. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened before, I’m fully aware that Man United players have been round each other’s houses to watch the demise of their nearest challengers fall by the waist side. The Leicester squad were in uncharted waters. Never have any of them been in that situation. Winning the league was their Everest. Like a 5-year-old on a sugar high, adrenalin kicks in and wage demands are met without thinking.

Over the summer of 2016 things more or less stood still. The ‘hangover’ was being quietly dealt with. The glow of a new season dawned and players needed to be bought.

N’Golo Kante was seemed destined to leave. He offered something to other teams that they didn’t have. An engine that never stops running. A quiet player whose performances shout louder than a Jamie Vardy pointing at himself and letting others know what he has done. But no matter how good a player is, a team shouldn’t be down as far as Leicester were.

I say ‘were’ because as we all know Claudio Ranieri became the ‘victim’ of a comedown. The high wasn’t there anymore. Apart from some flickers of life in the Champions League and thunderous performance against Manchester City, Leicester have fallen a long way from partying in the front room. Vardy was almost drawn to Arsenal and I’m sure Mahrez was courted by some very good teams across Europe. Hindsight suggests moving on would have suited both parties.

But to put the blame on those two is unfair. The whole squad has taken a step back. No longer are we seeing the giants at the back Huth and captain Morgan clearing the decks with ease. Danny Drinkwater’s passing range has disappeared. Players all over seemed to down tools, only the big games seemed to stir any emotion. Whether the ‘tinker man’ changed formation too much and signings like Musa haven’t pulled up any trees. But would Zlatan have gone to the champions? No. No news of any adventurous bids was mentioned.

The owners should have known, with this in mind, it was going to be a season of struggle. On February 18th, they hit almost rock bottom. A 1-0 loss in the F.A Cup to Millwall summed it all up. A lack of anything on the pitch. Fans were worried, no wins in the league or even a goal in 2017 bar 3 against a second-string Derby County side could take the heat of the club. A few weeks before the club issued a statement that they backed the manager. A slow death was in place. A glimmer of light was shone in a spirited display against a very good Sevilla team. A late Vardy goal meant a 1-0 win at the King Power would send them through. But the following night as I watched my Spurs team struggle against Gent, it was announced

that Claudio was gone. How fickle sport can be. This man gave City something they never had. Gave players attention from outside watchers they never had experienced.

We all have bad days at work, but to go so long without doing what they did last season will be seen as disrespectful to their former manager. The deafening silence from players was broken by a very odd, in my opinion, interview by Kasper Schmeichel. The fans deserved better, then one of those annoying screen shots of a message was put up on Jamie Vardy’s social media feed. Why not front up to the cameras? Anyone could have written that his behalf and sent it to him.

Craig Shakespeare is treading a tight line at the minute. Public opinion is that he comes across as the cat who got the cream and is pleased to tell anyone about it. Continuously saying he wants the job with a smile and twinkle in his eye does portray almost bad guy in a movie qualities. I doubt for one minute he is, but maybe refusing to answer the question would be more dignified.

The change in performance must make the Italian scratch his head in bewilderment. The same players, same voices bar one. Also where were these messages from the assistant manager before? No way he could have been silent in the dressing room? Surely, he wouldn’t have held back any ideas from the boss or the players?

Leicester won’t go down now. But I doubt anyone will be in for their players this summer.

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