JON MCCARTHY admits he’ll feel like an ‘excited fan’ on the inside when Chester host their bitter rivals Wrexham in tomorrow’s derby.
But the Blues boss insists he will be keeping his emotions in check during the cross-border clash, in order to avoid a ‘miserable’ experience of derby day defeat against Dean Keates’ Reds.
“On the inside I’ll be a fan and I’ll be as excited as anyone, I know exactly what it’ll feel like either way,” said McCarthy, who is set to hand Johnny Hunt – suspended for the past three matches – a recall at left-back.
“I’m quite experienced at these derby matches now, dare I say it from bigger derbies than this in terms of crowds, but I know it means just as much to people round here.
“I get it, I get what it’s about and I want to make sure everyone knows that I understand that. They must understand too that emotionally my players need to see my at the same level as they have all season.
“In order for me to prepare properly, that’s where I need to be, and to be able to make the right decisions during the game on Saturday.
“I feel quite confident now, I’ve been through 10 Wrexham games and I feel I know all I need to know about them. I know this derby can go either way, I’ll be miserable if we lose, my family are coming and I know what people will be shouting at us if we lose.
“But on the flip side, if we win I make our supporters really happy and give them something to smile about.”
The 46-year-old Blues boss helped his side secure a hard-earned point in the reverse fixture between the two back in September, a 0-0 stalemate which saw neither goalkeeper tested.
Gary Mills has since been sacked as Wrexham manager and replaced by Keates, who is in the process of revamping his squad during the transfer window and has guided them to back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
“Dean’s doing a great job, Wrexham have got themselves a good manager there,” added McCarthy. “Dean and Andy have had a lot to do and change to affect in an environment that hasn’t been too positive of late, and he’s slowly starting to change things. We’ve been through that and I recognise it, he’s showing the signs of putting his own stamp on the team.
“I respected Dean as a player and I know he gets the Wrexham/Chester bit. The team he puts out will be ready. Izlae McLeod and Jordan White are good options, Massanka’s come in too, they look better than they have been and they have a cutting edge.
“Barry and Penn are experienced in midfield and I’ve always liked James Jennings, they’ve brought in a player on a higher level there. So they’re a good team, and Rooney was massive for us, a key player, and just because he’s in a red shirt doesn’t change him as a player.
“He’s a strong character, he’ll get jeered and booed by the fans but he’ll want to work hard and want to win and John will be a threat. We’d hope to frustrate him and keep him out of the game.”
While Rooney and another former Chester player, Paul Rutherford, are both set to start for Keates’ side, three ex-Wrexham players are set to be included in McCarthy’s starting line-up, with defenders Hunt and Blaine Hudson, and in-form winger Elliott Durrell hoping to inflict a damaging defeat on their former club.
“All three did well for Wrexham, I find it strange when they get stick off the fans,” the 46-year-old added.
“I was watching an old game of Liverpool against Manchester United, and the stick Michael Owen took off the Liverpool fans, do they not remember what he did for Liverpool?
“So if Michael Owen can go there and get stick, then I suppose our players have to expect it but I’m sure they can cope with it and I do feel like they are very much Chester players now.
“Blaine Hudson scored for them in the derby and he needs to even that up now!”
See full story in the Leader