Shop manager Hilary Sillman retires today
Today marks the end of an era for the Oxford United club shop. Manageress Hilary Sillman retires after 35 years with the club, meaning that today is her very last day behind the tills.
"It will be really sad today," Hilary told us. "I think when I finally turn the key in the lock for the last time there may be a few tears but at the same time I am really looking forward to my retirement. I have loved every second of working at the club and will really miss it, but it is time to move on."
Those 35 years have flown past for one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.
"Initially my brother David was the accountant and said there was a part time job in the lottery department," Hilary says with that familiar smile. "I applied and did that for a couple of years. The lottery used to be a big part of the commercial side of the club and from there it was a natural step into the commercial department. Then I started in the shop and from the old shop on the corner of Osler Road I moved up to the Kassam Stadium when we moved in 2001.
"I remember the shop being located in a Portakabin for a while and when we first moved in there was no electric or hot water. Luckily I am always an optimist and can see the funny side of things so we carried on, got the shop working properly and then relocated over to the current shop a couple of years later."
That sunny disposition has stood Hilary in good stead over the years:
"I can honestly say that there is not one day when I haven't looked forward to coming in to work. It's not just the people at the club, who I love dearly, it is the fans. You see fans coming in who have been buying programmes or shirts for years and years. The fans have been brilliant and it has been a pleasure helping them.
"But I have had so many brilliant people to work with. Lucy and Kate are great, Margaret Landon helped me for years, Tanya Hillier when we were at the Manor. I could go back and make a long list of people who have worked in the shop with me, and every one of them has been wonderful.
"I remember the time in the ‘90s when we weren't getting paid and the club were in financial trouble. The fans sent in food for the staff and tried to look after us and all of the staff just rallied round. There is always a way round things if you set your mind to it."
Hilary will not be a stranger from now on as she enjoys her retirement:
"I will get a season ticket and am looking forward to sitting with my two sons Matthew and Neil and my grandchildren at games. My granddaughter Kia is a season ticket holder and isn't quite seven yet so Oxford United is a huge part of all of our lives. It will seem strange not having to work on a matchday but there is one bonus. I have had to close the shop before and then open it after matches. I haven't seen the first or last ten minutes of a match in 35 years, so I am really looking forward to that!"
It has been a real pleasure to work with Hilary and everybody at the club would like to wish Hilary a fantastic retirement. She will be greatly missed.