England manager Gareth Southgate described his long-time friend and team-mate Ugo Ehiogu as “a gentleman” and “a credit to football” after his death at the age of 44.

Ehiogu collapsed at Tottenham’s training centre, where he worked as the club’s under-23 coach, on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest and his death was announced on Friday morning.

Southgate had a close bond with Ehiogu, having shared defensive duties with him at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England and the pair won two League Cups together in 1996 and 2004.

A shocked Southgate offered fulsome praise for Ehiogu’s personal and professional qualities in a statement released by the Football Association.

“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,” he said.

“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 him.

Words can’t explain how devastated I am to hear the news of Ugo. He had a huge influence on the young lads at Spurs while I was there and I can’t speak highly enough of him. All of my love and thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.

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“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 though 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.”

Former clubs and team-mates have paid tributes to a “gentle giant”, whose death was announced by Tottenham this morning.

“It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of Ugo Ehiogu,” Spurs said.

Ehiogu, who played for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough and was capped by England on four occasions, joined Spurs as a coach in 2014.

Spurs’ head of coaching and player development, John McDermott, said: “Words cannot express the sadness that we all feel at the club. Ugo’s immense presence will be irreplaceable.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Gemma and his family.”

Spurs also added their thanks to the North Middlesex University Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield Hospital.

Ehiogu’s caring nature became further apparent from the final tweet sent from his Twitter account.

Ehiogu began his career as a trainee at West Brom 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.

He 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.

Villa released a statement expressing their sadness and added that there would be a minute’s applause ahead of their derby with Birmingham on Sunday, with the teams wearing black armbands.

Boro said they were “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing” and Mark Schwarzer, who played with Ehiogu at the Riverside, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He loved the game and he was really respected at Tottenham. It was a pleasure to play with him.”

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.