OVER the past 30 years he has become as much a fixture at Oxford United matches as the club’s most loyal fans.

But today will be the last time football officer Pc Paul Phillips watches over a United match before retiring from Thames Valley Police.

Having joined the force at the age of 16, he began policing football matches in the 1980s when he was drafted in to help out. He never looked back.

The 48-year-old, who also helps to police Oxford city centre, said: “My first game at the Manor Ground was against Portsmouth in 1984 and I thought there was something there for me.

“I had been working the beat up until then. They made about 60 arrests on the day but I loved it.”

He said problems associated with football matches had changed considerably over the past three decades.

“Things have improved over the years and football is more controlled now. But you still get a minority of people who want to take part in disorder.

“When I first started, there were no banning orders and there was terracing. That was before the Hillsborough disaster.

“But there has been a mentality change and people don’t want to see trouble at a football match.”

His job has taken him to all over the country, to places ranging from Liverpool’s home at Anfield to Crawley Town’s Broadfield Stadium.

As well as attending U’s matches, Pc Phillips, who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2005 for his outstanding contribution to policing, has also been called up for international duty, being part of UK police contingents sent to help spot potential troublemakers at the 1998 World Cup in France and Euro 2000 in Belgium and Holland.

Pc Phillips’s last home game at the Kassam Stadium was the derby clash against Swindon Town a week ago, when 13 arrests were made.

After attending an estimated 1,500 U’s matches, Pc Phillips, who grew up supporting Reading, now plans to watch games at the Kassam as a fan. He said: “I have seen a fair amount of ups and downs but it was quite nice to end on a victory last week.

“I would like to say my favourite moment was policing Wembley in 2010 but I was injured. The European tournaments were a good moment for me. I haven’t wanted to go but I have got to. Now I can go to watch Oxford as a supporter.”

The injury which kept him away from United’s Blue Square Premier play-off final win against York in 2010 was being punched outside the Railway pub in Wheatley.

He was at the pub with friends and family but was attacked while trying to arrest a man who had thrown a bottle. His attacker was later jailed for six months.

United chairman Kelvin Thomas said: “Paul has been a familiar face around the club for almost three decades and will be missed.

“I’m sure he’s looking forward to just being able to sit and enjoy watching the games from now on.”

Pc Phillips and wife Linda have two children, Hannah, 18, and James, 21.

He officially retires from the police in June but today’s away match at Bradford City will be his last outing on football duty.

He has yet to decide on what kind of job to seek after he leaves the force.

Supt Chris Sharp, the police area commander for Oxford, said: “Paul will be greatly missed, not only by his colleagues and friends in the police but by those he has helped and worked with in the city.

“He has been a significant influence on other staff and guided many officers in their approach to policing, his approach has always been exemplary.”