It was announced yesterday that the former Tottenham, Wolves and Bradford defender had died after a long-term illness at the age of 36.

After watching his Motherwell side beat Celtic 2-0 at home in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League this afternoon, McCall revealed his sadness at hearing about the death of Bradford-born Richards.

"It is an absolute tragedy," McCall told Press Association Sport. "I got few texts yesterday telling me about the sad news of Dean's death through illness.

"I didn't realise he had a long-standing illness and it came as a great shock. I had Dean in doing a little bit of coaching at Bradford a few years ago.

"He was a first-class professional as a player but a fantastic guy off the park as well and I was really sad to hear the news. He will be a great miss."

Richards started his career at Bradford before moving to Wolves in 1995, making 145 appearances in a four-year spell and becoming a crowd favourite.

He subsequently moved on to Southampton, who were then in the top flight, where he spent two years before switching to White Hart Lane for £8.1million, despite the player not having earned any senior international caps for England.

Richards, who played four times at under-21 level, spent four years in north London although his time there was dogged by injury.

He made almost 350 appearances in a career spanning 13 years before being forced to retire from the game at the age of 30 in 2005 when he was suffering from dizzy spells and headaches, an illness which was initially diagnosed as an inner ear infection.

He returned to the game in August 2007 as a youth team coach at Bradford and worked alongside McCall.

Wolves announced yesterday they were planning a tribute to Richards ahead of next Sunday's game with Spurs at Molineux.