Gareth Southgate pays tribute as football pays a fond farewell to Ugo Ehiogu

A hearse carrying the coffin of Ugo Ehiogu leaves St Michael's Church in South Grove, London, after the funeral service. PIC: PA
A hearse carrying the coffin of Ugo Ehiogu leaves St Michael's Church in South Grove, London, after the funeral service. PIC: PA
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Gareth Southgate gave a heartfelt speech recalling his memories of Ugo Ehiogu at the footballer’s funeral.

The former Leeds United defencer died at the age of 44 after suffering a cardiac arrest on April 20 at Tottenham’s training ground, where he worked a coach with their under-23 side.

The service for the former England, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender was held at St Michael’s Church in Highgate, before a wake at Alexandra Palace.

Ehiogu’s one-time Villa team-mate and the best man at his wedding, Dwight Yorke, helped carry his coffin into the church, where England manager Southgate spoke about the “fussiness” for which Ehiogu was fondly remembered.

Others present included his old Middlesbrough team-mates Paul Ince, George Boateng and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Villa colleagues Andy Townsend and Ian Taylor, as well as former managers Ron Atkinson, Steve McClaren and Brian Little.

Tottenham were also represented by retired defender Ledley King and fellow former players Les Ferdinand, Tim Sherwood, Gary Mabbutt and Pat Jennings, in addition to numerous youth-team players and chairman Daniel Levy. Manager Mauricio Pochettino was due to attend the wake.

Little, who managed Ehiogu for four years at Villa until 1998, said: “Gareth Southgate spoke unbelievably well about him, about some of the funny things about him.

“Ugo was very fussy with his food. Gareth hit on how he would order something off the menu, but he’d want it without that, without that, without that and without that and done a different way. And he did: he was very fussy about pre-match meals.

“He was just fussy; he wanted everything to be spot-on. That was a nice reminder, something that opened that little box in your brain. Gareth knows him better probably than most people. He spoke so wonderfully well about him.

“At Villa Park a few weeks back Ian Taylor and I were in complete bits. Certainly hadn’t got over it. Seeing the response (at the service) it almost lifts you to a point.”

Yorke played in the same team as Ehiogu under Little, and he said: “It was an amazing occasion; this was a great send-off for him. He was an amazing footballer, but an amazing husband to (wife) Gemma and his son.

“To see so many people come out to pay their respects shows how touching it is for his family.

“He was a great guy. I’ve known Ugo for a number of years, and had the pleasure of playing with him, but my friendship goes beyond that.

“I was his best man at his wedding, so we shared a lot of personal stuff, and a lot of great memories about Ugo. It’s just such a sad loss for him to leave us at such an early stage.”

Dion Dublin replaced Yorke at Villa in 1998, playing alongside Ehiogu until the latter’s transfer to Middlesbrough in 2000, and Dublin fought back tears as he said: “I won’t make it (without crying).

“If the words were in the dictionary of how to do your job then his name would be in it, with a picture of Ugo’s face in it. On and off the field he did it right. As a father, as a parent, he did it right.

“The service was beautiful, as I expected. Ugo’s way. Done right, everything was on time, all the people he wanted there were there. I’ll miss him.”

The service took place at 11.30am, 15 minutes after the hearse - which displayed flowers reading “Our friend” - had arrived. Ehiogu’s family arrived at St Michael’s via a more private entrance.

After its conclusion, many of those in attendance - Lee Hendrie included - were taken by one of 12 coaches to Alexandra Palace.

Hendrie was a young midfielder who established himself at Villa while Ehiogu was one of the senior players, and he said: “It’s touched down that he’s actually gone. So sad in there. It was a fantastic service.

“It’s crazy, I just listened to Gareth talking about how Ugo was with his food, little things with the way Ugo was as a person. Everyone’s going to miss him.

“Standing in there seeing everyone so upset and the way it happened, everyone’s going to miss him.”

Ron Atkinson signed Ehiogu for Villa from West Brom, and he said: “He was an old-fashioned defender. He loved defending, something that’s gone out of the game. He just used to come in every day and get on with it.”

Ehiogu also had spells at Sheffield United and Rangers during his playing career, before joining Tottenham’s staff.

Mabbutt added: “I was only with him a couple of days before he passed away and he was looking very, very fit and very, very well. It’s so very sad for all of us. It was a lovely service and hopefully we gave him the best send-off we possibly could.”

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