Play-off specialist Paul Hurst hits new heights with Shrewsbury
Paul Hurst admits the sheer shock-factor of Town’s promotion charge stands it alone in his 10-year career as a boss.
Shrewsbury are on the verge of a return to the second tier for the first time in 29 years as Hurst’s crop of blue and amber heroes toe the line of legendary Salop status.
Hurst and his troops have more hurdle to overcome in their improbable, odds-defying, fairytale campaign as the pre-season relegation favourites face either Rotherham or Scunthorpe just 90 minutes from the Championship and all the eye-popping away days that will bring.
The Town boss is in his 10th season as a manager and seven of those have ended in play-off campaigns – four times with Grimsby Town, where the expectancy to get out of the Conference weighed heavily.
But just how different and special is Shrewsbury’s effort given what Hurst has seen before?
The former Boston and Ilkeston Town boss describes it best by explaining as he smiles: “Here I don’t really know what’s going on! But that’s credit to the players and the performance levels and commitment.
“And all the staff, some people are maybe getting bored of hearing it but I can’t play down the importance of the staff and the bond here.
“It’s a special place to be, the players have absolutely loved the season.
“They’ve loved hearing me and Doigy (Chris Doig) moan at them, especially at half-time on Sunday, but they get the rewards – or are very close to it.
“Certainly, whatever happens, two Wembley appearances isn’t a bad thing for a season. I’d just absolutely – in Kevin Keegan style – ‘love it’ if we could be successful and win promotion.”
Hurst’s first effort was with step seven side Ilkeston Town. He was player-boss, with former joint-chief Rob Scott also at the helm. If anything outlines a dogged, never-say-die mantra of a Hurst side it is that one a decade ago.
Down to 10 men, they pushed Nantwich Town into extra-time then had the temerity to snatch the winner.
“This is the highest level I’ve managed,” admitted Hurst. “I had some really strong bonds at all of the clubs. Ilkeston was a very short time but I was a player as well, so there was two sides to it.
“Going to Boston we very quickly got to know a lot of people at a club run extremely well for the level it was at.”
Hurst and Scott left cash-strapped Ilkeston Town shortly before the club was liquidated. They went to Boston United, back into the division they had led Ilkeston out of – and achieved the same results. Again it was extra-time. One part of a fine treble.
But the Mariners, big fish in the Conference and expecting a Football League return, the pressure was felt.
“We spent so many years there with the ultimately goal of winning promotion,” he added. “It took a while but we got there in the end. There’s some special people there. I had some messages off people that were there (after the Charlton win).
“Overall though (at Shrewsbury) it’s being such underdogs and expected for relegation.
“At Grimsby you’re always expected to be fighting. I still had my say in terms of whether that means you should win automatic, but we started every season thinking we could give ourselves a realistic chance.”