FORMER Middlesbrough defender Ugo Ehiogu has died at the age of 44.
Ehiogu, who spent seven years as a Middlesbrough player, suffered a cardiac arrest at Tottenham's training centre on Thursday.
MFC are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of our former player Ugo Ehiogu. Our thoughts go out to Ugo's friends and family. pic.twitter.com/GDz8lqJJFF
Loading article content— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) April 21, 2017
The ex-England international has been working as a coach with Tottenham's Under-23 set-up, and his death was announced this morning.
Tottenham's head of coaching and development John McDermott said: "Words cannot express the shock and sadness that we all feel at the club. Ugo's immense presence will be irreplaceable.
"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Gemma and his family."
Ehiogu made over 200 appearances for Aston Villa between 1991 and 2000, before joining Boro in an £8m move.
He suffered a hamstring injury on his Boro debut, but went on to become a key presence at the heart of the Teessiders' back four, often playing alongside current England boss Gareth Southgate.
Cant believe the sad news i'm hearing about big Ugo Ehiogu! 1 of footballs genuine nice guys 🙌🏾thoughts and prayers with his family 😢🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/cblxw7Bitw— Mustapha Carayol (@Muzza_19) April 21, 2017
He was a member of the Boro side that won the Carling Cup final at Cardiff Millennium Stadium in 2004, and also played an important role in the club's run to the UEFA Cup final in 2006.
Ehiogu left Boro in 2007, and played for Rangers and Sheffield United before retiring in 2009, and began coaching with Tottenham in 2014.
Boro chairman Steve Gibson said: "I’m deeply shocked. Ugo was one of our heroes at Cardiff when the club won its only ever major trophy.
"Ugo and Gareth Southgate were the rock on which Steve McClaren brought the club its best period in its history.
"He wasn’t just a good footballer, he was a great man. It’s so sudden and so shocking, my deepest sympathies go to his family and all who knew him.
"I would regularly bump into Ugo. Football is a small world and he was always warm, friendly and welcoming. All of Middlesbrough Football Club will miss him."
McClaren himself added: “I’m absolutely devastated to hear the sad news about Ugo. What a sad loss he will be to football and, of course, to his family.
“I only saw him a couple of months ago on a coaching course at St George’s Park, looking fit and healthy, as always.
“I remember Ugo as a gentle giant of a man off the field, but a real warrior on it. He was a leader and he was well on the way to becoming a very good coach.
“When I became Middlesbrough manager, I was delighted he was part of the squad. Once I put him back together with his old Villa central defensive partner Gareth Southgate, what a combination! They were really in sync with one another. They were really the bedrock of the Boro team for five years.
“They both took a big gamble in moving from big club like Villa to join an ambitious club in Middlesbrough, so I was delighted for them when we won the cup. Ugo was a massive part of our success.
“I think he was underestimated as a player. Our defence was the foundation of our success – and whenever Ugo was there you knew you had a rock in the middle.”
Dreadful news that Ugo Ehiogu has passed away. So young, so sad, such a lovely guy. #RIPUgo— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 21, 2017
His former Boro team-mate, Mark Schwarzer, added: "He was always calm and reassuring. He was not too vocal, but spoke when he needed to speak.
"He was a completely dedicated footballer. He loved the game. He got into coaching and coached at a younger level. What I know is that he was really respected at Tottenham.
"It was a pleasure to play with him (at Boro). Ugo suffered from injuries. He was right up there. Had he had more game time he would have added to his caps. He was the ultimate professional and someone I really enjoyed playing with."
We're devastated to hear the news that Ugo Ehiogu has passed away.— England (@England) April 21, 2017
Our thoughts and sympathies are with all lucky enough to know him. pic.twitter.com/UXT4CXNIne
Ehiogu's former Aston Villa team-mate, Andy Townsend, said: "I'm absolutely shocked. Very shocked at this news. I heard he had collapsed on the Spurs training ground. But I didn't expect to wake up to this news.
"Like all younger players it wasn’t easy for him at the start of his Villa career but in the end you saw that nobody was going to get the better of him. He was commading and formidable in the air. He was a player that every team would like to have at the back.
"I remember the 3-0 win over Leeds [in the League Cup final]. I looked at pictures at home this morning and Ugo is in them celebrating.
"I've often wondered with professional sportsmen... you're conditioned for so long, but no doubt players have sometimes suffered when they pack up. But in Ugo's case he was on the training pitch at Tottenham. He would have stayed active. When I last saw him he was a picture of health."