Updated: Nov 5, 2021
The Millwall Club Shop is a place that as a child was like Narnia. Holding your parents' hand, you walked into the shop that had items such as John Beryslon 'Bobbleheads', Millwall branded dartboards and a host of all other items that had the Millwall badge slapped on it. You name the item, there was a Millwall version of it and due to the size of our modest club, the only place you could get these was in SE16. But, what does it feel like to work there? The one behind the till and in the stock room making sure that all your items that have been ordered online or in person find it's destination. How does it also feel to be in arguably one of the most famous buildings in Zampa Road and also find the time to volunteer at the Lions Food Hub and fund raise for the Millwall Lionesses? For this article and to answer these questions, we sit down with Club Shop employee, Kelly Essex.
1. Kelly, great to speak to you and thank you for doing the interview. First question, what is your role at the club?
I am a retail assistant, and have recently been promoted to match day supervisor in the Millwall Club Shop.*
2. You’ve been at the club shop for a while now, you clearly enjoy the job and the role you have, so how did it come about?
I've only been at the role for a few months, but it feels like a lot longer - in a good way! The staff are very welcoming and I slotted in straight away. We are a really strong team and I love working with my fellow Lions. Getting the opportunity to work at the Club Shop with one of those 'in the right place, at the right time' moments.
3. What is your connection with Millwall, are you from a family of Millwall fans?
I was born and raised in the local area on Millwall Football Club, so a choice really wasn't needed. Millwall were our local team and was a very young child attending home games with many generations of my family, all were already loyal Millwall supporters. My generation and generations after me have all just naturally followed suit and have grown up supporting the club. Many of my childhood memories were going to the games with my Dad, Uncles and Grandad, and can't explain how I felt when Millwall scored at home - we are definitely a Lions family.
4. Tell us what a normal working day is like and then compare to the amount of visitors you get on a match day?
My first day in the shop was the launch day of the new away kit! The home kit was already selling fast and we were slowly gaining a bit of normality back from the pandemic. Many had shopped and placed orders online so we were really busy from the off, but I learned fast at being thrown in at the deep end, and in my first three days of work I clocked up 65,000 steps and my jeans were a little loose around the waist - I was well chuffed! Match days are the best, I go to bed the night before like a child on Christmas Eve and from the moment I wake up I am buzzing with excitement. You arrive into work and the whole team are excited - what an atmosphere! The shop jut gets busier and busier throughout the game and the day. Midweek games and the 7:45 kick offs are my favourite and I start at 09:00 and finish at 22:00. The queues outside the door and the fans are just excited, nothing beats a match day and I'm running around the whole time.
5. You also do some fantastic voluntary work for the Lions Food Hub, how did that all come about?
The voluntary work came from my eldest son, Alex. He had agreed to go and take some photos for the Millwall Supporters' Club (MSC) media and Twitter to promote the Lions Food Hub and he had accidentally double booked himself! So he asked if I could step in and take some of the photos. When I heard it was Kelly Webster, part of the Millwall Lionesses and Ben Thompson who had made a donation to the Food Hub, I thought "oh, how can I refuse that one?!" It was definitely one of the nice favours he has asked me for, and believe me there have been a few over the years!
6. How important is it for you to help in the local community with the food hub?
The Lions Food Hub will always have a piece of my heart. It's a fantastic service set up by one of our own, Kelly Webster and with Ellen they have both worked so hard to get it set up and started. They help so many local families and are a real life line to many who are going through a very scary and worrying time. I am proud to have volunteered some of my time in helping where I could, and I've met two amazing friends who put everyone before themselves. Sometimes the real heroes don't always wear capes!
7. You have a relative who is working for the Millwall Lionesses and you have helped them in the past when you did a charity 10k. How important is Millwall to you?
My eldest son, Alex Russell, who has a lot to do with Millwall Football Club. The list is never ending and putting all the jokes, favours and banter aside, I am actually extremely proud of all his achievements and work ethic towards the club. After numerous roles and different achievements, he plays a massive part in the journey of the Millwall Lionesses as the Assistant Manager. His passion for the women's team, as well as the men's, by being part of the Lionesses' and MSC committees is just amazing. Nothing is too much of an ask, he goes above and beyond in all his spare time, as well as working full time and playing football. He supports and promotes everything and anything that Millwall Football Club are involved in - I told you we were a Millwall family!
The 10k run - where do I start with that?! Alex wanted to raise some money for the Lionesses, and I said I'd like to help where I can. The next thing I know, I'm in Greenwich Park, signed up for a 10k run with Michael Avery, the professional runner (author's note - I'll need to check that...) who is as good as Mo Farah! I had done no training whatsoever, and let's say, I'm just grateful to be here to tell the tale. Never again will I run anywhere! I did raise enough money to sponsor two of the Lionesses and help to support them in their football journey.
Alex has had me doing all sorts - taking pictures, washing kits, even a six mile row on the River Thames, but that's another story for another time. I hope he remembers all of these favours when he's older and can return some...
8. What is your message to the Millwall fans who are now allowed back into The Den?
My message is that it's great to have them back in The Den.With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, it's amazing to have them back home.I always feel at home watching the games and now working at the Club Shop I am really truly chuffed to say that I am part of the Lions family.Only a true fan will understand: Welcome Home, we are back where we belong.
*After time of recording, Kelly has since been promoted to the role of Team Leader, Fan Experience. Congratulations, Kelly!