Oxford University Association Football Club players past and present have offered moving tributes after the passing of long-serving club coach Mickey Lewis on Friday 5 March at the age of 56.
Lewis had formerly been a fan favourite at local Football League club Oxford United, making 351 appearances for the club between 1988 and 1999, before working in a number of other roles at the club including acting as coach driver and caretaker manager. Lewis was also the assistant manager at Oxford United under Chris Wilder, with the pair guiding the Us to promotion back to the Football League in 2010.
He joined OUAFC in 2002 and coached the team three days a week for 18 years, leading the club to an enviable record in the iconic Varsity match against Cambridge, losing only 3 times inside 90 minutes during his tenure as manager. This included the Dark Blues winning four of the last five Varsity matches. He also led the team to five victories in eight matches against Oxford Brookes’ football team since the inception of the annual intra-city match in 2012, and last season coached the Blues to the BUCS Midlands Division 1 title. Lewis was commended by the club for his professionalism, and for “bringing the professional experience to all tiers of the game and to players of all backgrounds and characters.”
Lewis was something of a club legend thanks to the longevity of his service on and off the field. The club noted that “returning to see Mickey at the Club’s annual ‘Old Boys’ game was a highlight for many former Blues and a big contributor to our strong alumni network”. According to current Blues captain Benjamin Putland, Mickey became a “lifelong friend” to many former players, and was “an incredibly kind, generous, and funny man who taught us much more than football and improved us as individuals”.
Brendan McGurk, who played under Mickey when he first took over the reins at OUAFC, paid testament to the genuine interest he took in his players, even once they had left Oxford: “He remembered all of us, would take an interest in whether you were still playing, and what you were doing with your life more generally. That he continued to take an interest was always touching… I shall forever be grateful to him.”
Similarly, former Blues captain and current Blues player Laurence Wroe said that Lewis was not just a “fearless and tenacious footballer” but an “incredibly thoughtful, honest, hard-working, and good-humoured” man as well.
Lewis passed away this month after a battle with a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer. Upon hearing of his diagnosis, players past and present were determined to show him their support, and “20 years of the OUAFC community united to send messages and videos to Mickey to show our love, support, and gratitude for everything he’s done for us. We sent it shortly after his diagnosis so thankfully he was able to see it.”
In the wake of his passing, OUAFC are attempting to commemorate Mickey Lewis himself, as well as helping his family after such a devastating loss. An annual ‘Old Boys’ memorial game will be played in Lewis’ honour, while he will also be specially remembered at this year’s Varsity match.
Lewis had also been Head Coach at Velocity Football, Oxford City’s Football Academy which combined football with academia. Given his widespread dedication to football in Oxford, contributing to OUAFC, Oxford United and Oxford City, a joint fundraiser has been organised to create a fund in his honour. The donations page can be found here.
Mickey Lewis was an iconic figure in Oxford’s footballing world, and will clearly live long in the memories of all those he played with as well as the innumerable others he coached across Oxford. As Laurence Wroe puts it, the footballing community in Oxford has “lost not just a great coach but a great friend.”
Mickey’s wife, Suzanne, released this statement after the family’s loss:
It is with deep sadness that we have to tell you our beloved Micky has lost his short battle with cancer.
Micky fought with typical bravery and tenacity having been diagnosed only two weeks ago with a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer.
As we all know Micky loved football, loved people and loved life and we will miss him so very much.
We would appreciate some privacy right now but will announce any details in due course because we know how loved Micky was.
Rest in peace Mickey Lewis, 1965-2021.
Image Credits: Oxford University Association Football Club