Wycombe Wanderers, and their Ex-Players’ Association, are sad to report the death of another icon. Howard Kennedy passed away on Wednesday evening, five weeks after entering Thames Valley Hospice. The former Blues’ midfielder had been suffering from prostate cancer for the past five years.
Howard was only 66 and leaves wife Fiona, daughter Katie and twin sons Chris and David along with two grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.
He first revealed his illness publicly at the WWEPA annual dinner in 2014 when he left the audience spellbound with his plans to set up a charity called Patients’ Trust to help other sufferers and to educate doctors in handling such cases.
Revolutionary treatment in America helped hold back his own illness. But it returned with a vengeance some months ago.
His last appearance at a WWEPA event came at our annual golf day in July – an event he had organised so well with committee colleague Ken Wilson for several years before. But many ex-teammates had visited him recently and found him as feisty as ever.
His outspoken views served him well in the teaching profession and he climbed in heights in the schools system, moving on from becoming a Headmaster to working in education strategy for the Government. Apart from family, his two main passions were teaching and football. Born in Leeds, he was once on Brian Clough’s radar. But a year’s post-graduate course at Oxford University brought him to the notice of Brian Lee.
He joined Wycombe in 1974 and was a regular for nine years. His tally of 102 goals in 416 appearances – 547 / 152 in all games - was remarkable for a midfield player. Howard Kennedy stands ninth in the all-time Wycombe charts of appearances.
Along with Micky Holifield, Terry Reardon and Steve Perrin, that Blues’ spine was a match for anyone. Even Jack Charlton admitted that when the Wanderers ran Middlesbrough – then the First Division leaders pre-Premiership – so close in a history-making FA Cup third round tie in 1975.
Such was his workrate that his nine League goals, along with a hatful from Keith Searle, Steve Perrin and Tony Horseman, helped Wycombe retain their Isthmian League title in his first season. And there was another title for him and his team in his final year at Loakes Park in 1983.
Work took him back North to Manchester, but on his return to this area he rekindled his love for the Wanderers. He was invited to join the WWEPA committee in 2012 and invigorated many a meeting with his forthright but always honest views.
We shall miss the firebombs he liked to explode, usually with a twinkle in his eye. And we will miss the man who approached his illness in the manner he faced opponents on the field – with no fear.
John D Taylor (WWEPA)