Ian Sharps thinks manager Gary Brabin deserves credit for turning Tranmere Rovers into play-off contenders in his first season in charge.
Chester FC captain Sharps, now 35, began his career at Prenton Park and made almost 200 appearances for a club he retains a strong affinity for.
Tranmere visit the Blues on Sunday (12 noon) sitting sixth in the table knowing a win would take them into the top-five with Gateshead focusing on the FA Trophy.
Sharps has been impressed at how Brabin, who had a spell with Chester City in 2002, has improved the fortunes of a club that fell out of the Football League with consecutive relegations while dealing with expectation levels that comes with average home gates of almost 5,000 and one of the division's biggest budgets.
"It's always hard when you go in as a manager and he's had a massive turnover of players so he's done a really good job to be fair to him," said Sharps.
"You always have that bedding in period and there's the expectation he's had to deal with as well. I'm sure every team goes to Tranmere thinking 'what a great stadium and what a great chance to perform'.
"I'm sure they're aiming for promotion and they've still got a good chance of that."
Brabin has put his faith in experience and has strengthened his squad as the season has progressed with the additions of Steve McNulty, Michael Higdon, Jeff Hughes and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who Sharps played alongside as a schoolboy.
Throw captain Steven Jennings, part of the same Tranmere team as Sharps in the mid-2000s, combative midfielder Lois Maynard and 11-goal striker James Norwood into the mix too and Rovers have a formidable squad.
"I played with Fletch when he was about 12 in Liverpool because we used to be in a Sunday league team together," said Sharps.
"The manager has brought a few experienced pros in to steady the ship and he's got Jenno there in midfield. He's brought proven quality which is something not many teams in this division can do.
"He's got seven or eight players of proven quality from the division above. He's shopped around and done well for himself. The lad Hughes is good on the wing too and they've got a lot of threats but we've just got to worry about what we can do."
Sharps, who has started the last two games after losing his place in the side, insists Chester should not fear his former club.
Tranmere won 2-0 when the sides met at Prenton Park in September but Sharps reckons Chester's home performances against the division's top sides offer encouragement.
He said: "You're always looking to beat the teams that beat you especially. It should be a good game, a good crowd and I'm looking forward to it.
"When we've played against the better teams at home we've given a good account of ourselves. Against Grimsby, Cheltenham and Forest Green we've played well but we've not managed to win any of them and that's what we're looking to do.
"I think the lads to be fair to them get up for every game but there will be a bit of added spice with the crowd near capacity and the atmosphere should be good.
"The lads know they are good players but it sometimes takes a few performances to realise it.
"We've got the ability to cause anyone in this league problems and Sunday should be no different but we've got to make sure we play our game well and get about them as much as we can.
"We've had a lot of false starts throughout the season but we've had a win and a draw and that's something we need to progress with. We're looking forward to the game and I'm sure the fans are looking forward to the game so we've got to make sure we turn up."