Wycombe Wanderers are sad to report the loss of another of their true legends with the death of Mickey Holifield. A pacey and industrious midfielder, he graced Loakes Park for a decade from 1971.
He made 425 senior appearances, which puts him eighth on the club’s all-time roll of honour and scored 86 goals. In all, he donned the Blues shirt 566 times which puts him just ahead of teammate and great friend Howard Kennedy. Like Howard, Mickey suffered from prostate cancer and died on Thursday after a long fight against the disease.
During his ten years with Wycombe, Mickey helped the club to the Isthmian League title in 1972 – his first full season - and was a key figure when they repeated that in 1974 and 75. His ceaseless energy, skill and enthusiasm contributed hugely to what was possibly the most successful spell in Wycombe’s amateur history.
Mickey was also a leading light in the club’s record-breaking run to the third round of the FA Cup in 1975 and those two memorable matches with Jack Charlton’s First Division table-toppers, Middlesbrough. The Wanderers’ trio of Holifield, Kennedy and Terry Reardon more than matched the Boro midfield who included internationals Graeme Souness and eventual replay late match-winner David Armstrong.
Applauded off the field by a crowd of 30,000 after a similar reaction from the 12,000 at Wycombe just three days earlier, those matches remained a fond memory often talked about when Mickey became a founding member of the WWEPA. He attended many of our special events for ex-players and was a regular at our annual golf tournaments where he picked up several prizes
He also struck gold when part of the Blues’ team that lifted the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1975 after beating Monza. Mickey played on at Wycombe for a further six years, impressing everyone with his work-rate and his talent – none more so that Brian Lee, Wycombe manager from 1968-76.
“Mickey Holifield was one of the best players I was privileged to manage. He was quick, strong and clever at times making him difficult ‘to read’. He was a good trainer, reliable and excellent in the dressing room with his wit and dry humour but he always enjoyed himself. So sad to hear the news.”
WWEPA President and John Maskell, first team goalkeeper for 16 years, was the man who brought Mickey to Wycombe after he’d started his career with Thame and Oxford City. They were also teammates for the entire ten years of Holifield wearing the Blues’ shirt. “Although much admired by the manager, players and supporters, Mickey was probably one of the most underrated players in the Brian Lee team. He was one of the best footballers I ever played with, and certainly should have won a cap for England,” remembers Mask.
“Strong, great balance, very quick as well as being fearless. Always performed on the big stage as was shown against the likes of Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and Peterborough. Mickey was a quiet and an unassuming character. He was his own man and didn’t like conformity, and often complained about being made to wear a blazer and tie on match days.
“He loved his music and I believe he was one of the first people to have a soundproof room at his parents’ house with the latest Hi Fi equipment. I always think of Mickey when I hear Cat Stevens, who was one of his favourites in those days. I’m proud to say that having seen Mickey play for Oxford City, I convinced him to join the Blues, where he became a friend and an outstanding player.”
Paul Birdseye, whose own exceptional 11-year career at Wycombe ran in exact parallel with Holifield’s, was also devastated to hear the news. “Although normally at right-back, I was delighted to switch to the left on occasions. With Mickey in front of me and doing so much running, it meant me almost having an afternoon off!”
Vince Faulkner, now a WWEPA Committeeman, was a teammate of Holifield’s when they completed their League title double in 1972. “ It was obvious from his early days that Mickey was going to be a great player for us. But equally important, he was a lovely guy.”
Another former playing colleague to play tribute was Ken Wilson. “When I arrived at Loakes Park Mickey was long established in my position. My big break came only because he retired! He was a very private man but a great bloke.”
Holifield’s death follows that of many early 70s teammates including Ian Rundle, Keith Blunt, Ted Powell, Howard Kennedy and, most recently, Charlie Gale.
Mickey was also industrious off the pitch, setting up his own commercial property agencies in Oxfordshire and Bucks while living at Little Milton near Oxford. A family man, our thoughts go out to wife Sarah, son James and daughters Alice and Emma. Funeral details will be announced shortly.