Matt’s Monologue: Derby Excitement

It has been a long, long time since Tranmere have had such a fixture – ten years, in fact, since Wrexham were relegated out of League One.

Some rivalries have sprung up in the intervening years, against the likes of Oldham (mainly due to Ronnie Moore) and arguably Notts County too after a couple of intense matches when Martin Allen was in charge there.

But nothing comes close to a local derby. And I genuinely think it is something that Rovers have been missing.

There are plenty of fans here today for whom this games will have been the first one they looked for when the fixtures were released earlier this season.

Indeed, there will be many who have never even seen the club play a team who are based so locally!

Fixtures against the enemy bring with them a huge sense of anticipation. They are something for supporters to get excited about.

On the pitch, it will be intense, with local players from both clubs going at it hammer and tong.

The atmosphere in the stands should be electric, with both sets of supporters desperate to come out on top both in the vocal stakes and when it comes down to action on the pitch.

I would not be surprised if there is even a bumper crowd here – fans of eras gone by drawn in by the importance of the game locally, as well as Chester bringing significantly more than previous visitors to Prenton Park this season.

Of course, as the table stands, this game is only a mid-table battle. Hopefully it will not be that way when the reverse fixture takes place at the Deva Stadium in February.

But even in the most mundane of campaigns, perhaps when two teams are enduring average seasons in the middle of the table, a rivalry can spark some competition.

Nobody wants to finish bellow the side they dislike most. They may be spurred on to go higher and achieve more with that little bit of extra motivation.

So perhaps in previous years, the desperation to get ahead of a rival would have driven the club on to achieve that little bit extra.

Of course, we will never know, but it has been a decade of waiting.

Today, it is Chester who visit Prenton Park and I am sure there is plenty of excitement around in the terraces, and nostalgia as well over some of the great derby memories.

I have only seen the two teams meet once – in a pre-season friendly in about 1997 or 1998.

Back then, Rovers were in the Championship and Chester were then a Football League club.

And the importance of the game was clear to me even then, as a young child, when a fight broke out in the crowd after one of the Tranmere goals!

From memory, Georges Santos was on target for John Aldridge’s side, who went on to win 4-2.

But, today, after 25 years (in competitive terms at least), that rivalry is renewed. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Will a quarter of a century of yearning prove that today? I am not so sure.

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