SPANISH striker Juan Ugarte is excited by the possibility of making his Wrexham debut this evening but disappointed that his best friend, Liverpool's Xabi Alonso, will not be at the Racecourse to watch him.
Ugarte, 23, was signed on non-contract forms by manager Denis Smith yesterday in response to fresh injury concerns over Chris Armstrong and the absence through illness of another Dragons trialist, Matt Shaw, ahead of the LDV Vans Trophy clash with Stockport County.
"Without Juan, I was down to 12 fit senior professionals so, without a doubt, he will be on the bench," said the Racecourse boss. "From what we've seen of Juan in training his movement is good and he's a very, very good finisher.
"But there's sometimes a difference between what players can do in training compared to what they can do when the pressure is on. It's not easy but he's also shaped up well in the couple of reserve team outings he has had.
"Juan looks to be the sort of player who is better when he's playing with good players and it's been tough for him in the reserves because we've had to put so many of the kids in just to make up the numbers."
Ugarte joined his local La Liga club Real Sociedad - based in San Sebastian - straight from school, together with class-mate Alonso and it was the Anfield club's recently-established Spanish connections which attracted him to this part of the world after a spell with Conference South club, Dorchester Town.
Ugarte is also friendly with the eldest son of Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry, who has another son registered with Wrexham's School of Excellence, and he is currently staying with Chester businessman Geoff Moss, whose son is also on the Dragons' books. "Xabi and I joined Real Sociedad as youth team players, then we had three years in the reserves together and I had one year in the first-team squad," said Ugarte yesterday.
"Although he is out of the country with Liverpool this week, we've spoken on the phone and he's promised to come and watch me when he can."
Ugarte, who will wear the number 30 shirt this evening, is also wanted back at Dorchester, where manager Mark Morris had arranged for him to spend a few weeks on trial with Bourne-mouth, but the player added: "I'm not really interested in going back there.
"I only want to play for Wrexham because I'm very happy here. The players and the manager have treated me really well and I love the area. Mr Moss treats me as a member of his family and I also get the chance to watch Liverpool on a more regular basis."
Trinidad international Hector Sam will start tonight in place of Armstrong, who is being rested as a precaution, in an otherwise unchanged lineup from Saturday.
"Armstrong's achilles is a bit tight and we need to look after him," said Smith. "I'm not taking any chances on him because the last time he played three games in a week, he was out for a long time."
Given Wrexham's off-field problems, the financial rewards for making it through to a Millennium Stadium final are hugely attractive and victory this evening will put the Dragons through to the last eight of the northern section.
"I've never done well in this particular competition, although it's not for the want of trying," admitted Smith. "Perhaps I'm due a change of luck this season and everyone knows we could do with a good run in any one of the cups."
The two sides met at the same stage of last year's competition, County getting the best of a nine-goal thriller but Smith is confident his side - who are unbeaten in six matches - can exact revenge.
"We should have won last year's game even though we had pretty much a reserve team playing," he added..
"We'll be much stronger tomorrow and we are capable of beating any side in our league.
"Being undefeated is a good habit to acquire and we've got to keep ticking over even though progress in these competitions means more matches for my small squad.
"It's a long slog through to May but it would be nice then, and a measure of success, to look back at some silverware."