The Leader:

IT'S not every day that a National League footballer gets to play in a stadium that has staged games in the European Championships.

But the Wrexham players were given the opportunity of playing in the impressive 30,305 seat capacity Estádio Algarve during the Reds' training camp in Portugal 12 months ago.

The ground was completed in time for Euro 2004 where it hosted two group games and a quarter-final match between Sweden and Holland.

Wrexham, then managed by Sam Ricketts, got off to the ideal start in their friendly against Louletano DC when in-form striker Mike Fondop opening the scoring and Nicky Deverdics made it 2-0 before the break.

However, the Portuguese third tier hosts hit back after the break to clinch a 2-2 draw but winger Paul Rutherford admits it was a fantastic experience playing at the venue.

“It was a lovely stadium to play in,” said Rutherford.

“The only shame was that England were playing in the semi-final of the World Cup at the same time so I wanted to be watching that a little bit!

“The stadium has been used in the European Championships in the past so it is great that we get to play in facilities like that.

“This time around, I have heard a lot about the opposition that we are facing so it could be a real running session for us on the night.”

Wrexham have embarked on a third successive pre-season tour to the Algarve and Bryan Hughes' side will face Portimonense SC at their home ground, the 9,544 seat capacity Estádio Municipal de Portimão, tomorrow night.

Portimonense finished 12th in the Portuguese top flight last season and Rutherford admits is a game he will relish playing in due to the calibre of the opposition.

“It will be a good test and a different type of opposition,” said Rutherford.

“You set out to go and win but you put it into context and you look more for the habits than the results.

“If the habits are there then the results are going to come.

“This is a great learning experience for us to go and make sure that those habits are there to go and get the results when it really matters.”

Rutherford, who arrived at The Racecourse in the summer of 2016, has been an ever present on the club's recent Portuguese adventures.

Having played for Chester City, Barrow and Southport before joining Wrexham, going overseas in pre-season is all new to Rutherford but he believes the trips are worthwhile for various reasons.

“It is the first time in my career that I have been away so the last three years have been a breath of fresh air for me,” said Rutherford.

“It is a change of scenery and with the climate, it is just nice to be out there and being able to train in the nice weather and get a good sweat on!

“It brings the lads closer together as well. There are usually four in a room and in the past we have tended to put new lads in with established lads just to get everyone mixed in a little bit.

“With me being one of the smaller ones, I am always on the sofa so it is not the best for my back!

“But it good that everyone gets to spend that good quality time together. It is a good laugh for everyone, it is good for team-bonding and it is good for fitness."

Wrexham fans will one again turn out in force to back their team and Rutherford says their support is much appreciated.

“It is amazing,” added Rutherford. “The support that we get over in Portugal is phenomenal.

“The first year I remember there being thousands of Wrexham fans over there and the second year there was a good thousand or so.

“You don’t get that at this level.

“It is scary the fanbase that go and follow you all the way to places like Portugal.

“We are very mindful that it is not cheap to go there; it costs the fans quite a bit of money so for them to use that as their holiday to go and show us some support, it means a lot to me and I’m sure the other lads appreciate it."