IT’S the first game every Wrexham and Chester fan looks out for when the fixtures come out in the summer.
Gone are the days when you knew that these fierce border battles – the English against the Welsh – would traditionally take place on Boxing Day and at Easter, attracting bumper gates and goals galore.
My first derby experience was way back on December 27 1976 – my first full season of supporting Wrexham.
The Racecourse was rocking with most of the 15,412 crowd celebrating as Graham Whittle smashed in a hat-trick to go with a goal from my all-time Wrexham favourite, Bobby Shinton.
Probably the best Christmas present I had that year although that Evil-Kinevil stunt cycle came a very close second.
I can’t remember any ructions off the pitch that day – it was just a great game of football between two teams who gave their all to try and put the smiles on their supporters’ faces.
Then there was Gary Bennett, sliding on his knees in the snow at The Racecourse to knock Wrexham out of the FA Cup in 1985 and who will forget Andy Milner’s sensational last-gasp leveller as Chester broke Wrexham’s hearts on St Valentine’s Night in 1995.
Karl Connolly, who also scored in that February classic 22 years ago, gained some revenge when scoring both in a 2-0 win at The Deva in December 1997.
How times have changed? Wrexham v Chester derby tussles in the 21st Century have been drab affairs with more supporters staying away as the authorities eventually decided to enforce a ‘bubble-match’ order on the cross-border clash.
The bubble burst the incredible atmosphere these games can generate but the fans have the chance to show their true colours in the best way possible at The Deva tomorrow night.
The late, great Stuart Mason, who played more than 100 times for both clubs, once told me of his memories of rival fans, walking along the side of the terrace to the other end of the ground at half-time to hopefully have a better view of their teams goals going in.
Can you imagine how that would go down now?
But at least the ‘bubble’ measures have been relaxed and the supporters will only have themselves to blame if the headlines are made off the pitch and not on it in front of the television cameras at The Deva.
The travelling band that is Dean Keates’ Red and White Army will head up the A483 in numbers while ticket sales have been encouraging at the Chester end too.
Saturday’s superb fightback will give Blues supporters great hope going up against a Wrexham side who could go joint top of the National League with a win on enemy territory.
Hopefully both sides will go out on the pitch wanting to win instead of adopting the dour defensive approach.
The derby tussles were becoming friendly affairs until it all kicked off between both sets of players in the 1-1 draw at The Deva 10 months ago.
Both sides would settle for a point from tomorrow night’s showdown but fans want a win to celebrate and shout about when they go to work, school or pop down the shop to buy The Leader on Thursday morning.
But who will be the big hero and take on the mantle of a Bob Delgado, Dixie McNeil, Derek Asamoah, Karl Connolly or John Rooney.
Rooney scored in both the blue of Chester and the Wrexham red in recent battles at The Deva – a belting free-kick past Cameron Belford and for Wrexham in last January’s draw.
See full story in the Chester Leader