MIDDLESBROUGH FOOTBALL CLUB have led the tributes to one of the club’s greatest ever players, Rolando Ugolini, who has died at the age of 89.

Flags at the Riverside Stadium have been lowered as a mark of respect for Ugolini, who died suddenly at his home in Edinburgh on Thursday morning, having suffered suspected heart failure.

Renowned as a colourful character on and off the pitch, Ugolini joined Boro from Celtic for £7,000 in 1948.

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The son of Italians, who moved to Glasgow when he was one, Ugolini quickly established himself as a popular goalkeeper with both players and fans.

Nicknamed ‘the cat’ or simply ‘Ugo’, he made his debut against Chelsea in the 1948-49 season and was Boro’s regular goalkeeper over the next nine years.

Agile, fit and a talented shot-stopper, his theatrical style was the talk of Ayresome Park. A noted dressing-room prankster, team-mate Brian Clough remembered him as "the sort of character that every club needs".

Ugolini played a total of 335 games for Boro, making the goalkeeper’s jersey his own for eight seasons.

Former England international Alan Peacock played alongside him as his Boro career started and Rolando’s came to an end, and the chairman of the Middlesbrough Former Players’ Association (MFPA) said: “He was one of the nicest men I ever met in the game and this has come as a real shock to me.

“I played with him in my first few games and he seemed to like me. He really looked after me when I came into the side.

“Over the years he always kept in touch and I was planning to go and see him in the next few weeks.”

The Northern Echo:

MFPA secretary Jim Platt added: “You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer man than Rolando. I didn’t meet him until we set up the Former Players’ Association, so I didn’t see him play, but he used to come to a game every year. I was going to call him to invite him to the last game of the season.

“He was a true gentleman who was extremely popular with the fans and who loved football and loved coming to Middlesbrough.”