Paul Hurst was treated to a rousing reception at the AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday but he knew his popularity decreased as the afternoon went on.
Hurst received a standing ovation from the Millers crowd as they had chance to recognise a 15-year career that took in 494 appearances – almost the club record – for the first time.
There was no room for sentiment once the game got under way, though, as Shrewsbury battled their way to a last-gasp victory which extended their lead at the top of Sky Bet League One to four points.
He may have the Millers running through his veins and admits to having people he loves in the opposition dugout, but had no shame in celebrating harder than anyone when Stefan Payne stuck in an injury-time winner.
“I have got nothing against Rotherham United,” Hurst said. “I love them to bits and I want them to do well, but when I am out there I am managing my team. I am going to protect my players and my club.
“There were a few that didn’t like me as much as the game went on.
“The ovation I got was very warming, but in the second half I was every name under the sun.
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“But one reason the Rotherham fans liked me is that I am competitive. My job today was to be Shrewsbury manager and win a game of football. That’s what it’s about. I didn’t feel the occasion affected me. It was just nice to win.”
Hurst has turned Shrewsbury from relegation certainties last season into promotion contenders this term and their battling display at New York proved they are not a flash in the pan.
They look set to be competing at the top end of the table and Hurst hopes the Millers can join them.
“The ideal scenario for me would be if we are both very successful,” he added. “I had friends in the opposing dugout.
“I had a fantastic career here. I enjoyed my time here and I was fortunate to have success here.
“It was really nice to see people.”