Ricky Sbragia has led the tributes to former Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who has sadly passed away aged only 32.
Fulop’s former club MTK Budapest confirmed he had died following a long illness.
The Hungarian international played in England between 2004 and 2010 and was on the books of Tottenham, Ipswich and West Brom and also had loan spells with Manchester City, Stoke, Leicester, Chesterfield and Coventry.
But he is best remembered for his time at Sunderland, where he spent more than three years.
Sbragia highlighted his save from a Gary Cahill header in a goalless draw at Bolton in May 2009, which earned Sunderland their final point in a season where they finished just ahead of relegated Newcastle.
The Scotland Under-21s head coach fought back tears and could not hide the emotion in his voice as he spoke of his sorrow.
“Marton was everything,” said Sbragia, who was in caretaker charge of Sunderland for six months until May 2009.
“You talk about being a good friend and doing everything for you and being there, but he was different class. I had a lot of time for him. He was great for me as a manager and did everything I asked.
“He kept us in the Premiership. Craig Gordon was injured at the time so Marton was a big focal point in the team. I can remember at Bolton he made a save in the 94th minute from Gary Cahill and it kept us in the Premiership.
“I spoke to him about a year ago but I have great memories of him. A lovely man. I was really sad when I saw the news. Condolences to the family.”
Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper Gordon also paid tribute to his former team-mate.
“Marton was a very humble guy, a genuinely nice man, who I was lucky enough to play alongside,” he told Sunderland’s official website.
“Even though we were both competing for the number one shirt, he always supported me when I was playing and we were good friends.
“I had kept in touch with him and followed his career and am deeply, deeply saddened to hear the news today. My thoughts are with his family.”
MTK were Budapest-born Fulop’s first club, from where he joined Spurs in the summer of 2004.
However, he did not make a first-team appearance for them and loan spells at Chesterfield, Coventry and Sunderland followed before he made the move to Wearside permanent in January 2007.
He was part of Roy Keane’s Championship-winning team and stayed with the Black Cats until 2010. He made more than 40 first-team appearances and had loan stints at Leicester, Stoke and Manchester City.
The Hungarian, who won 24 caps, made three appearances for City before being reunited with Keane at Ipswich in 2010.
After more than 30 appearances for Ipswich, just one followed in a one-year spell at West Brom, before he joined Greek side Asteras in 2012.
Fulop decided to take a break from the game in 2013 following an operation to have a tumour removed from his arm.
He told Sunderland’s official website then: ”I am sure that, after a few months, I will be ready both physically and mentally to continue playing football.
”What is more, I’d like to train between the treatment courses, as the doctors have said this is fine, and in fact, they heartily recommend it.
”I am very grateful to all the messages and good wishes – it really helps me that many are thinking of me.”
All the clubs Fulop played for in England were quick to pay their respects on Twitter, as were former team-mates.
Former Tottenham defender Ledley King said: “Shocked and saddened by the news about my former team-mate Marton Fulop. RIP my friend.”
Crystal Palace striker Connor Wickham added: “Gutted to hear the news. Someone who acted as a mentor through my younger days with @Official_ITFC. RIP Marton.”