When Tommy Wright’s breaking up of the St Johnstone cup-winning squad came at his expense, Chris Millar felt like he was “being kicked out of the family”.
But the 2014 Celtic Park hero can now appreciate that the ruthless side of the Northern Irishman was part of his managerial excellence.
Millar, who believed he had more to give when he was shown the exit door at McDiarmid Park, raised a glass on Saturday night to the boss who helped him achieve his greatest success.
Any disappointment and anger has long since disappeared.
“I had just finished in the gym I’ve set-up in the garage when checked my phone and saw the gaffer had left,” said the veteran midfielder.
“It was a real shock because he had two years left on his contract and look at the success he had at the club down the years. Managers usually leave because of results or because they move on to a bigger job.
“If he had left when Saints were bottom of the league near the end of the year it might not have been a surprise. But it’s been turned around. The run they were on was exceptional.
“From a football perspective the gaffer is leaving the club in right good shape. Whoever gets the job is inheriting a young squad with massive potential.
“It is difficult changing the age profile of any squad and it takes time. But the gaffer has always adapted. That is one of his great strengths. He took an ageing squad, managed the transition and still kept the club relatively successful. That shouldn’t be underestimated.”
Millar left Perth in 2018 after 10 years, over 270 games of football and a testimonial. He dropped down to the Championship with local team Morton, convinced he had at least one more season in the top flight left in him.
“The gaffer never shied away from tough decisions and what was in the best interests of the club,” said the 37-year-old.
“There is a circle of life and he took the decision to move on cup winners like myself, Steven MacLean, Steven Anderson, Frazer Wright, Dave Mackay and others.
“Don’t get me wrong. I was upset, I was hurting.
“At the time I was raging. I thought I deserved another year. You are so caught up in it you feel you’re being turned against. And you’re leaving guys who have been a big part of your life.
“You don’t want it to end. As a player you are selfish. It felt like being kicked out of the family. But on reflection you come to appreciate these are the decisions managers have to make. There was a bond there with us all so it must have been hard for him.
“I have been back to the club, sat with him in his office and you get a different perspective.
“I texted Tommy sitting over a beer and thanked him for all the good times. He came back right away. We had a laugh about things.
“It’s only when you step away and look back on all the success we had that you realise it was something special we had going with a great manager and a great bunch of lads.”
He added: “The gaffer was always honest with players and he fought your corner. He commanded respect. He’d try to get a few quid extra for you on a contract when you were dealing with the chairman or keep you right out on the pitch.”
Millar said it is “no wonder” fans have already set up a petition to get a stand named after Wright given his unparalleled success.
“He has to be a serious candidate for Northern Ireland now,” he said. “He will go on and get a job somewhere, you can be sure of that. And whoever gets him is going to get themselves a great manager.
“Tommy is a manager who can put an arm round you or give you a boot up the backside. I think good managers have that about them.
“We had our wee fall-outs over the years! He is scary in full flow. The gaffer is a big guy. And I had that wee man’s syndrome at times so I would try and bite back. But he always had the final word. You knew your place, let’s put it that way!”