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.