Ugochuku Ehiogu (//; 3 November 1972 – 21 April 2017) was an English professional footballer who played as a centre back from 1989 to 2009. He was the coach of the Tottenham Hotspur U23 team until his death in April 2017.
Ehiogu in 2013
|Full name||Ugochuku Ehiogu|
|Date of birth||3 November 1972|
|Place of birth||Hackney, London, England|
|Date of death||21 April 2017(aged 44)|
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Playing position||Centre back|
|–1989||West Bromwich Albion|
|1989–1991||West Bromwich Albion||2||(0)|
|2006–2007||→ Leeds United (loan)||6||(1)|
|2014–2017||Tottenham Hotspur (Under 23s)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
He played in the Premier League with lengthy spells at Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. He also played in the Football League for West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United and Sheffield United, as well as a spell in the Scottish Premier League with Rangers. He won two Football League Cups, with Aston Villa in 1996 and then with Middlesbrough in 2004. Ehiogu was an England international, with a record of 4 caps and 1 goal. In 1993, playing for the England under-21 team, he became the first black player to captain an England team in a competitive match. In 2012, he came out of brief retirement by signing for non-league side Wembley to participate in the club's FA Cup games alongside other retired veteran players.
Ehiogu died on 21 April 2017 after suffering a cardiac arrest at Tottenham Hotspur's training ground.
After just a few games for Albion in the Second Division, Ron Atkinson brought him to First Division club Aston Villa for a £40,000 fee in August 1991. By 1994, he had replaced Shaun Teale as the main central defensive partner to Paul McGrath.
In the 1993-94 season Villa played Tranmere Rovers over two legs in the semi final of the League Cup in which Ehiogu took part in the second leg. Ehiogu was selected as a substitute and came on to replace Ray Houghton during the game helping the team to a 3-1 win leaving the two legs at 4-4 on aggregate. In the following penalty shootout he went on the take the 5th penalty which he struck against the bar and missed. Ron Atkinson had told The Independent newspaper that it was "the most dramatic football match" of his managerial career. Villa went on to win the shoot out for a League Cup showdown with Manchester United which Ehiogu missed out on.
In the 1994-95 season Villa competed in the UEFA Cup where in the second round second leg in a match against Turkish club Trabzonspor Ehiogu scored in the 90th minute in a 2-1 home win. However this wasn't enough as Trabzonspor won 2-2 on aggregate knocking Villa out of the competition.
He was part of the Villa team that won the 1995–96 Football League Cup, as Villa beat Leeds United 3–0 in the final. Ehiogu also won a runners-up medal when Villa lost 1–0 to Chelsea in the 2000 FA Cup Final.
He remained at the club for nine years, making over 300 appearances in all competitions until November 2000 when he joined Middlesbrough from Villa for, at the time, a club record fee of £8 million. The deal went ahead after negotiations between Villa and West Bromwich Albion, whose 50% sell-on clause on the player had been seen as a stumbling block to the move.
His career at Boro got off on the wrong foot when he was forced to limp off with a calf injury five minutes into his debut at Charlton Athletic. Whilst at Middlesbrough, Ehiogu quickly became a mainstay in the central defence since joining the club and rejoining his former teammate Gareth Southgate in central defence. He missed the start of the 2003–04 season with a knee injury sustained in the final match of the previous season. He returned in time to play in Boro's League Cup final win against Bolton Wanderers, the first major trophy in the club's history. Only into the third game at the start of 2004–05 season Ehiogu had an accidental clash with his own keeper Mark Schwarzer which resulted in knee ligament damage. Again he was forced to miss many important games, although Boro still managed to secure a place in the UEFA Cup for a second successive season.
He agreed a loan move to West Bromwich Albion during the January transfer window of 2006, but this move was cancelled when a number of Middlesbrough players became injured. West Brom then tried to secure a permanent transfer, but were unable to agree personal terms with Ehiogu.
On 23 November 2006 he moved to Leeds United on loan. He made six appearances and scored one goal against Barnsley and also an own goal against Stoke, during his spell at Leeds, which ended in January 2007 when his loan deal expired. After returning to Boro, he made one final appearance for the club.
Ehiogu was released from his contract at Middlesbrough and signed an 18-month contract with Scottish Premier League club Rangers in January 2007. His first goal for Rangers came in March 2007 with a spectacular overhead kick in his first Old Firm game, giving Rangers a 1–0 win against Celtic. The Rangers fans voted for Ehiogu's goal against Celtic as their Goal of the Season.
Ehiogu found his first team opportunities limited at the start of the 2007–08 season, with Carlos Cuéllar and David Weir being preferred by manager Walter Smith. He was released by Rangers that January.
On 16 January 2008 it was reported that Sheffield United were interested in signing Ehiogu. The next day he was released by Rangers and travelled down to Sheffield for talks with club manager Bryan Robson. He completed the move on 18 January 2008. Ehiogu made his first team debut for the Blades in a 1–1 home draw with Watford at the end of January, and was used a defensive cover for the remainder of the season.
With injuries and suspensions to his fellow defenders in the early stages of the following season he forced his way into the first team and was rewarded with what turned out to be his only goal in Blades colours, scoring the winner against Preston North End in October 2008. Having embarked on his most successful spell for United he suffered an injury in the Boxing Day game against Wolves which sidelined him for the rest of the season. After the Blades failed to gain promotion, Ehiogu was released at the end of the season when his contract expired as the club tried to cut costs.
On 24 August 2012 Ehiogu came out of retirement to sign for Wembley, agreeing to play in the club's FA Cup games alongside fellow former professionals Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Claudio Caniggia, Brian McBride and Graeme Le Saux. Ehiogu played alongside Caniggia in the club's 2–2 draw with Uxbridge in the preliminary round. Wembley subsequently lost the replay 5–0.
In April 1993, Ehiogu became the first black player to captain an England team in a competitive match, in a game for the England U21 team against the Netherlands. Ehiogu made his senior England debut on 23 May 1996, replacing Tony Adams after 76 minutes of a 3–0 friendly win against China at the Workers' Stadium in Beijing. He went on to win another three caps in friendly matches and scored once for his country, a header in a 3–0 victory over Spain on 28 February 2001 at Villa Park.
Following a period working part-time with the Tottenham Hotspur Academy, Ehiogu was appointed under-21 team (subsequently reclassified as U23) coach as part of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. Academy in July 2014. Writing after he had suffered a heart attack, Henry Winter noted that Ehiogu "is one of the most thoughtful English coaches, frequently talking eloquently about the need for English football to have a more distinct culture and commit more to age-group tournaments so that senior internationals of the future can experience differing styles".
Ehiogu married Gemma Coleman in 2005. The couple had a son, Obi Jackson, together. Ehiogu also had a daughter Jodie from a previous relationship. After retiring, Ehiogu jointly founded a successful record label, Dirty Hit.
On 20 April 2017, Ehiogu collapsed due to a cardiac arrest at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground and was taken to hospital, where he died early the next morning at the age of 44. In the aftermath, it was announced that Ehiogu's widow Gemma would set up a charity in his honour. She used social media site JustGiving with the aim of raising £1,000 to start the charity. By 24 April, the appeal had raised £11,000. In the days following Ehiogu's death, many clubs held tributes to him in the form of a minute's applause before matches, in which players wore black armbands.
- Aston Villa
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