Gareth Southgate has issued a personal tribute to Ugo Ehiogu, who passed away on Friday morning at the age of 44.
Long-time team-mates for both club and country, the pair first played together when Southgate joined Ehiogu at Aston Villa in 1995.
They would soon share the international stage as Ehiogu came on to play alongside his club-mate for the closing quarter-hour of a 3-0 win in China ahead of Euro 96.
The pair spent half a decade at the centre of the Villa defence, playing in the 2000 FA Cup Final at Wembley, before Ehiogu moved on to join Middlesbrough later that year.
Seven months later, Southgate was reunited with Ehiogu at the Riverside Stadium – and the pair also rekindled their international pairing when the latter was recalled to the England squad in 2001.
After retirement, they crossed paths several times as they began their coaching careers. They were together as recently as last month, when Southgate’s England trained alongside Tottenham Hotspur coach Ehiogu’s under-23s.
After hearing the news of Ehiogu’s passing, the Three Lions manager penned the following message:
"I'm stunned and deeply saddened by Ugo's passing and clearly my initial thoughts are with his wife Gemma, his children and his family.
"I know that football will be grieving because he was so highly respected by everybody he worked with and losing him at such a young age is difficult to come to terms with.
"Most importantly, he was a gentleman and he is one of those characters that people would find it difficult to have anything bad to say about.
"I probably played more games with Ugo than anybody else in my career and, while in many ways he was a gentle giant away from football, he was a colossus on the pitch. It felt like a true partnership with Ugo because we were prepared to put our bodies on the line for each other.
"We shared highs, lows and won a couple of trophies together with Villa and Boro and it's those memories that I will always cherish when I think of Ugo.
"He was one of the most professional people I played with in terms of how he applied himself to his job and it was great to see him progressing through the coaching pathway with that thirst for learning.
"I've spoken to several of our former team-mates today and there's just a sense of disbelief that we're having these conversations.
"Ugo was a credit to football, a credit to his family and he will be missed by everybody who was lucky enough to know him."