My commemorative piece on influential former Spurs Under 21’s and 23’s Head Coach Ugo Ehiogu:

Ugochuku ‘ Ugo ’ Ehiogu (born in 1972) grew up in Homerton, East London, and although he represented Hackney Borough in his youth (along with other youth teams), Ugo started his football career with the very well known Senrab FC youth team. However, the late former footballer and coach would move up to the Midlands to sign for West Bromwich Albion as a youth player, before later turning professional. A very determined, talented, highly skilled and commanding centre-half during his playing days, Ugo signed for Aston Villa in 1991, a club where we would endear himself to the fans during his time in Birmingham. It was at Aston Villa where Ugo won the first of two major trophies during his playing career, and he was a part of the Aston Villa side which won the 1996 Football League Cup (he was also an FA Cup runner up with Aston Villa in 2000). The Londoner would later play for Middlesbrough, where he won another League Cup in 2004. Ugo later had spells at Leeds United (loan), Glasgow Rangers, Sheffield United and non-League side Wembley, but he also won four caps for England during his playing career, scoring one goal. A very popular player wherever he went during his playing career, Ugo would continue to be so well liked when he embarked on his coaching career. Leaving a great impression on the players that he coached, the former footballer started off his coaching career with Spurs, coaching some of the various schoolboy Academy age groups, for around one to two years, prior to taking charge of the old Spurs Under 21 side.

While working with the Spurs Academy players, Ugo also worked with England, as part of his UEFA A License work. He worked with former Spurs player Peter Taylor, when Taylor was in charge of England’s Under 20 side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the July of 2014 Ugo was appointed the head coach of the Spurs Under 21 side. It must have been such a proud moment for him. Ugo took charge of his first competitive game for Spurs the following month, as his side beat West Ham 2-1 at home. Ugo’s appointment as the head coach of the Spurs Under 21 side coincided with a change of approach towards the Under 21 side. In the sense that the team wasn’t so much a reserve side, where you used to have first team players regularly playing for the side, for different reasons. Instead it was now a side which contained young professionals, even more so than before. And it was incredibly rare for a first team player to get minutes at Under 21 level, for Spurs. Ugo created a great bond with the players that he coached, and he would even often join in, in training with the Spurs development side. Under his tutelage the Spurs Under 21’s and later the Under 23’s side played some nice attacking football, and they played the game the Spurs way. During Ugo’s second season in charge of the old Spurs Under 21 side, his side were involved in some very memorable games. Such as a dramatic 3-3 draw with Manchester City, in Manchester. Spurs also beat Leicester City 7-4 at Hotspur Way, as well as beating them in the reverse fixture, in a game which finished 3-0 to Spurs. 

Spurs also beat Chelsea away from home, during the 2015/16 season, a season in which Ugo helped Spurs’ Under 21 side to reach the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup. In the group stages of that competition Ugo’s Spurs lads impressively beat FC Schalke 04 3-1, and later on FC Porto, 4-0. The 2016/17 season saw the league renamed as the Premier League 2, and the teams had now changed to Under 23 sides. Spurs had also qualified for the UEFA Youth League during the following season, and Ugo was in charge of the Spurs Under 19 side which competed in the group stages of that competition (we beat a talented Bayer Leverkusen side in that tournament). However, the new Spurs Under 23 side continued to play their exciting style of attacking football, and with a team of very good young players, Spurs put in some memorable performances over the course of the season. Tragically Ugo Ehiogu passed away in the April of that season, his untimely passing shocked the footballing world. There was an outpouring of emotional tweets on social media from the players who had had the pleasure of working with him, and also from those that knew Ugo. He would have become a great manager in the future. For that I have no doubts. A highly knowledgeable coach who showed his great passion for the game from the sidelines, Ugo was more than just a coach to the young Spurs players that he helped. He was so greatly respected by the Spurs players for the knowledge that he passed on to those players at such an important stage in their career. But the hugely positive and long lasting impression that he made on the Spurs Academy players that he coached, will live with them for more than just their football careers. He meant and continues to mean so much to them. All of the Spurs lads will tell you that, if you were to ask them.

Ugo helped so many Spurs Academy players (he also would have helped some of the Spurs Academy coaches, such as his Spurs Under 23’s assistant Matt Wells) and future first team players to play Under 21/23 football at that level and beyond. Many players immediately come to mind, such as Josh Onomah, Harry Winks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luke Amos, Kyle Walker-Peters, Anton Walkes, Anthony Georgiou, and the list goes on and on. However, Ugo also gave a number of lads their debuts at development side football level, such as players like Oliver Skipp, Marcus Edwards, Kazaiah Sterling, TJ Eyoma, Alfie Whiteman and George Marsh, all players that have made competitive first team appearances for Spurs. There are also other players such as Samuel Shashoua, Brandon Austin, Christian Maghoma and Tom Glover, who are all players who were first given the chance to play that level of academy football by Ugo. Something that I’m sure all of those players are extremely grateful for. A true gentleman of the game who also always made time for fans, it was very fitting that this much loved and sorely missed gentleman’s final tweet on Twitter was about giving a homeless person in Dalston ten pounds. It spoke volumes about what kind of a man Ugo was. At Spurs’ Hotspur Way training ground there is a giant 15ft picture of Ugo on the wall above the academy staircase, which has been there since he passed away. Meaning that every single young Spurs player sees him every day, and is reminded of the example that he set. Rest in peace Ugo. Your legacy in football and at Spurs lives on.

Memories and words of appreciation from some former Spurs Academy players that Ugo coached:

Kodi Lyons-Foster: Ugo was someone that I as a young defender at the time learnt a lot from in a short space of time. He gave me some great advice and taught me lots in my time at the academy working with him. I remember when he first came in to the club and my dad recognised him straight away and pointed him out and made me aware of what a player he was. He was someone who you could not only learn off but also talk to on a man to man basis which is quite rare in football as usually you don’t come across many coaches that you could build that relationship with. I have nothing but words of praise to describe my time working with Ugo and I am so grateful I had the chance to work with him.

Jamie Reynolds: I think everyone that knew Ugo knew he was one of the nicest people they will ever meet. He always made time for everyone and got me to believe in myself when I thought I wasn’t able to.

Christian Maghoma: Ugo was not only a great coach, he was a great human being. His team talks, tweets and off the cuff training sessions sometimes made us laugh. But he would laugh too. I stress that last bit as that was hugely his character. Bubbly, funny, enthusiastic. He gave off a welcoming and positive aura that left us players looking forward to going in every day. Being a defender also, him and I had many 1 to 1 conversations about football. As it was him though we would also speak about life and other people things as he cared about how we were outside of football massively too. He sometimes said he saw himself in me which was a huge compliment to me and still is as his career speaks for itself. I always, always think about Ugo and always will. RIP to a legend.

Anthony Georgiou: Ugo for me was a special coach. I remember him first coming in to help Justin when I was an U16. At the time I was performing well and he really believed in me and gave me a lot of confidence to be told your a good player by someone we all highly respected even before we got to know him for his playing career. So when I got to U23 level and he took over with Matt Wells I was of course very happy. Him being a player made him relate to us all a lot more and he would always have great banter as well as some great advice and knowledge to pass down to us about football and life for footballers. For me I had a special bond with him during my time out injured where I missed a big majority of his last season with us. He took so much time out to talk to me and to be there for me when I was down and give me positive thoughts to get through it having gone through similar himself, and he always had the time for me, and always stayed out with me to do extra work. He would always be there chatting at the end of the day with Matt Wells to lift my mood after some tough days. I will always remember Ugo as someone who had a big impact on an important part of my career, giving me a lot of belief but more for the person he was off the pitch, the funny, caring, kind person who treated everyone well and always had time for everyone. You can see how much of an impact he had on us all by speaking to any player he coached. We all looked at him like a legend and he is missed by all and will always be remembered. To this day I still think about Ugo.

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