BIRTHDAY boy Ryan Valentine does not need telling how important the outcome of Sunday's clash with bitter rivals Chester City is to Dragons supporters.
Valentine - 24 tomorrow - knows all about the passion and intensity of the border-derby having been brought up as a Red in Chirk.
However, the high-noon showdown at the Saunders Honda Stadium will be the first time he has faced the Blues in a Wrexham shirt.
Valentine - who turned down the offer a new contract at Darlington to return 'home' in the summer - is as desperate as the fans, many of whom are his friends, to put one over the enemy, who have former Dragons Dean Bennett and Jon Walters in their ranks.
He said: 'I've never played in a Wrexham-Chester game so I can't wait for it. All my friends have been asking me if I can order them tickets because they're all Wrexham supporters.
'They'll be reminding me just how important it is for us to beat them. But I already know.'
Valentine is one of a number of hometown players in manager Denis Smith's squad, and that is why he believes he will not be the only one bang up for it.
He said: 'There's six or seven lads from the Wrexham area here, so they know what it will mean to the fans if we beat Chester. But the other lads in the squad realise it too, and we'll be telling them even more as the week goes on.'
Although his Reds career spans just three games, Valentine is already a firm Racecourse favourite.
A classy full-back, he showed he can mix it too in Saturday's bruising 0-0 home draw with Peterborough.
Valentine's performance led boss Smith - a no-nonsense defender in his playing days - to label him a 'proper footballer'.
Valentine said: 'All fans appreciate a good tackle, as much as they do a good pass or goal. Fans up and down the country like to see committed players,
and we've got that here. I want to play the game the right way, but if it means getting stuck in, then that's the way it has to be.'
The point meant the Dragons stretched their unbeaten run to three matches, much to the delight of Valentine.
He said: 'Everybody is pleased with how we have done. On paper, we've had the toughest start. We've played one of the favourites in Wycombe, last season's play-off finalists Grimsby, and
Peterborough, who I think will be up there. So to pick up five points is very satisfying.'
Mark Jones (back), Danny Williams (calf) and captain Neil Roberts (nose) have been nursing knocks, but Smith is hopeful they, along with Darren Ferguson (foot) - who missed the Peterborough match - will be fit for Sunday. New striker Jon Newby - who had trials with Chester in the summer - should be on the bench.
However, the Racecourse chief will
be without World Cup hero and club captain Dennis Lawrence, who ended his five-year stay in Wrexham on Wednesday and signed for Welsh rivals Swansea.
Smith said: 'I'm disappointed to see Dennis go, as he has been an excellent player and ambassador for Wrexham.' nOn Wednesday, Wrexham travel to Hillsborough for their Carling Cup first-round tie at the Championship's Sheffield Wednesday (7.45pm).