FORMER Oxford United player and manager Micky Lewis has died.

The U's stalwart, who made 351 appearances and was twice caretaker boss, passed away yesterday, aged 56.

His wife Suzanne and son Zach shared a statement on United's official website.

It read: "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."

Lewis, affectionately known as 'Mad Dog', fulfilled almost every role imagineable during an association with United that began when he signed from Derby County in 1988.

He spent time as youth-team coach, assistant manager and even stand-in physio at Blackpool in August 1999, while he sometimes drove the team bus to matches.

It made him a hugely popular figure with players, staff and fans alike and dozens of people have already shared their memories.

Former manager Brian Horton, who was assistant under Mark Lawrenson when Lewis joined the club, said: "So sad to hear about the passing of Mickey Lewis.

"I am absolutely devastated that he has left us at such a young age.

"Mark Lawrenson and I signed Mickey from Derby County in 1998 and he went on to play 350 games.

"He was a fantastic person and player."

Lewis began his career at West Bromwich Albion, before moving to Derby in 1984.

His spell with The Rams ended with his move to United, making his debut in a 1-1 draw at Leeds United in the old Division Two on August 27, 1988.

The tough-tackling midfielder was a fixture throughout the early 1990s, helping the U's to promotion from the third tier in 1995/96.

Lewis' playing career effectively ended that year and he became youth-team coach, but was recalled in August 1999 due to an injury crisis.

He was appointed caretaker boss when Malcolm Shotton left two months later, taking charge of 22 games before the appointment of Denis Smith the following February.

In an eventful season, Lewis also managed United's reserves and played what proved to be his final game on February 19, 2000, a 2-1 win at Chesterfield in the third tier.

He left in November of that year and had spells at Oxford City and Banbury United, before returning to the Kassam Stadium in May 2007 as youth-team coach.

Lewis was assistant to Chris Wilder when United returned to the Football League in 2010.

James Constable, the U's second-highest all-time goalscorer, was part of that promotion-winning side.

He tweeted: "Heartbroken, Mickey embodied everything it takes to be a successful coach.

"His enthusiasm and infectious laugh put a smile on your face every day, he knew the club inside out and knew what it meant to play for Oxford United.

"His passion was unwavering and he will be sorely missed."

When Wilder left for Northampton Town in January 2014, Lewis was appointed caretaker boss for a second time and took charge of 12 matches.

He parted company with United in summer 2015, before becoming assistant manager at National League South side Hayes & Yeading United.

More recently, he was head of academy at Oxford City's education programme Velocity Football.