Wolves and Tottenham will stage a joint tribute to Dean Richards, their former centre-half whose death was announced on Saturday, when they play each other at Molineux next weekend.
Richards was just 36 but had been fighting serious illness since he was forced to retire from the game in 2005 due to persistent headaches and dizzy spells. Richards also played for Bradford, his hometown club, and Southampton as well as being capped by England at Under-21 level, when he captained a side that included David Beckham at the Toulon tournament in 1995. He had been working as a coach with Bradford since 2007.
It was with Wolves that Richards established his reputation as a skilful centre-half who combined stock-in-trade aerial ability with an assurance on the ball. "He was a very good footballer," said Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager. "Anybody who dies at that age – and I believe he has two kids and a wife – it's devastating, so my sincere condolences to his family and close circle of friends."
Wolves paid a then club record £1.8m for him in 1995. Four years later he moved on to Southampton and the Premier League. His form with Southampton meant that when Glenn Hoddle made the managerial switch from the south coast to Tottenham he made sure he went back for Richards.
At £8.1m he became the most expensive uncapped English player and his chances of ridding himself of that tag disappeared over the course of four injury-ruined seasons at White Hart Lane, during which he made 73 appearances. Richards began suffering dizzy spells while with the club, a problem at first put down to an inner ear infection, and that was to prompt his retirement.
A statement on the Tottenham website read: "Everyone at Tottenham Hotspur was saddened to hear of the death of our former player Dean Richards. There will be a tribute paid to the defender ahead of our fixture next Sunday at Molineux against his former club Wolves. We extend our sincere condolences to the family of Dean Richards at this very sad time."
Wolves said: "Everyone at Wolves is saddened to hear of the death of Dean Richards. Remembered for his trademark skilful breaks out of defence as well as his ability in the air, Richards will always be fondly remembered by Wolves fans." A statement from Bradford said the club were "truly devastated" by the news. The club will hold a minute's silence before their next home game against Rotherham on 8 March. Southampton described Richards as "a whole-hearted and popular player, with fans and colleagues alike".