How the forgotten season of 1945-46 cost Paul Hurst a piece of Millers history

For a long time Paul Hurst was told he was going to end up in the Rotherham United record books.

The pocket-sized left-back had devoted his career to the Millers, after joining the club as a schoolboy and coming through the ranks at Millmoor. He made his first-team debut in 1993-94 and went on to pull on the red and white shirt every season up until 2007-08.

As the years ticked by, attention turned to the record books, which showed him closing in on the fabled Danny Williams as Rotherham’s all-time record appearance holder.

 

The target for Hurst, or so he thought, was 493 as Williams was listed as having played for the club 492 times in a career that encompassed three decades.

That seemed more than achievable as with his 33rd birthday on the horizon, Hurst went into the 07-08 campaign 14 short of that mark.

But then the record books were checked again.

Williams was a wing-half born in Maltby and first played for the club in 1942. But this is where the problem lies.

Although there was a league in action during the war, all appearances, goals and other data are expunged from the record books as the Football League and the FA Cup were officially suspended.

Paul Hurst made 433 league appearances for the Millers between 1993-2008

The Football League resumed in 1946-47 and that’s when the records recommenced, but the FA Cup had actually restarted the year before, only for the club to initially overlook this.

And unfortunately for Hurst the Millers decided to have one of their better runs in the competition, going to the fourth round, and to make it even worse, ties in those days were played over two legs.

When the omission was discovered, Williams, who celebrates his 93rd birthday next Monday, was accredited with eight extra appearances almost 50 years after his retirement, taking him to the magical 500 mark.

 

That still ought to have been in reach for Hurst but his stellar Millers career went out with a bit of a whimper.

He had reached 493 appearances by November 2007 but due to injury and falling out of favour under former team-mate Mark Robins, he had to wait until February to make it on to the pitch again.

Had the missing FA Cup appearances not been found, then Hurst would have taken what was thought to be Williams’ record with a substitute appearance against Shrewsbury in February 2008.

The stalwart was picked just one more time before being allowed to join Burton on loan and he never played for the club again, being released at the end of the season.

The left-back played in the bottom three divisions for the Millers.

He finished on 494 appearances and a strong sense of what might have been.

The purists might be secretly happy, though, as taking into account his war-time appearances, Williams played for the club 621 times over an 18-year period.

He officially made 461 league appearances, all of them starts, compared to 433 for Hurst, of which 51 came off the bench.

Also Williams only had the league and FA Cup to play in, whereas Hurst was eligible for the League Cup, the play-offs and the Football League Trophy.

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