Grayson pays tribute to former team-mate Ugo Ehiogu

Ugo Ehiogu
Ugo Ehiogu
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Preston North End manager Simon Grayson has paid tribute to former Aston Villa and England defender Ugo Ehiogu who died today at the age of 44.

Grayson and Ehiogu were team-mates at Villa for two years between 1997 and 1999.

Ehiogu suffered a cardiac arrest at Tottenham's training centre on Thursday - he was Spurs' Under-23s coach.

He was rushed to hospital but passed away in the early hours on Friday morning.

Grayson posted a message on PNE's official Twitter account.

It read: "So sad to hear of the devastating news of my former team-mate at Aston Villa.

Preston manager Simon Grayson

Preston manager Simon Grayson

"A great character and player. Thoughts go out to all his family and friends. RIP Big Man."

Ehiogu began his career as a trainee at West Bromich Albion before he was taken to Villa by Ron Atkinson in 1991.

He went on to feature in more than 300 matches for Villa and played in their FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea in 2000.

The defender won the League Cup with Villa in 1994 and 1996 and former team-mate Andy Townsend told Radio 5: "I remember the 3-0 win over Leeds (in 1996) and I looked at the pictures this morning. Ugo is in them celebrating.

"He was commanding and formidable in the air. He was a player that every team would have liked at the back."

Ehiogu joined Middlesbrough for a then club-record £8million fee later that year, and in 2001 he scored his only goal for England in Sven Goran-Eriksson's first game in charge, a 3-0 friendly victory against Spain.

Knee injuries plagued the final years of Ehiogu's career at the Riverside Stadium.

He joined Leeds on loan in 2006, and also had short spells with Rangers and Sheffield United before he retired from football in 2009.