IAN RUSH admits there will be no room for sentiment tonight as he plots the downfall of the club that allowed him to take his first step on the road to management.
Rush spent a season as player-coach at Wrexham six years ago, but the Wales legend will find himself in direct opposition to his former employers tonight when his Chester City side face the Dragons in the northern section quarter-finals of the LDV Vans Trophy.
And ahead of the eagerly-awaited Saunders Honda Stadium tie, Rush spoke of the debt he owes to Wrexham and, in particular, their football coordinator, Joey Jones.
"Brian Flynn was manager in those days, but it was Joey Jones who encouraged me to get into coaching and to start taking all the relevant examinations and badges," said the Chester manager last night.
"I learnt a lot from Joey and I have a lot to thank him for. I took my initial coaching badges with the Welsh FA where, incidentally, Mark Aizlewood (Chester's assistant manager) was the assessor."
Rush added: "Those days were enjoyable, but Chester is more important to me. They launched my playing career for which I will always be grateful and of course they gave me this tremendous opportunity, when they appointed me as manager."
Meanwhile, Wrexham's Kieran Quinn, Levi Mackin and Matthew Shaw have been placed on first-team alert by Racecourse boss Denis Smith for tonight's tie.
Andy Holt, Chris Armstrong, and Scott Green, who all played key roles in the Dragons' 2-1 win at Huddersfield on Saturday, are rated as major doubts to make the starting line-up.
"We were at full stretch on Saturday so to say we are going through a testing time is something of an under-statement," said Smith yesterday. "Until we make an assessment of the situation tomorrow morning I can't get anywhere near an accurate team selection."
Holt, who opened the scoring at the Galpharm Stadium on Saturday before retiring from the action at half time, has a badly bruised and cut left leg, Armstrong quit training early after feeling unwell and Green was resting a tight hamstring following his first senior match in seven months.
With goalkeeper Andy Dibble also ruled out of tonight's squad after a minor setback yesterday, Smith could be without 11 experienced campaigners for the first derby meeting between the traditional rivals in seven years.
But, despite his threadbare resources, the Racecourse boss is contemplating nothing less than a second successive vistory this evening.
"A win at Chester will set us up nicely for the FA Cup match at Scunthorpe on Friday evening," he added.
"I'm not able to put out a stronger team against Chester, even if I wanted to, and the way things are going I'll be happy to have 11 bodies out there on the pitch. But it's an important game for the club and, much as I would have preferred not to have two such games within three or four days, we have got to play them.
"And no one has to to tell me what derby matches mean to players and their supporters, because I've been involved in many similar occasions in the past. There's an extra edge to this one because it's also England v Wales so we certainly won't under-estimate what's at stake.
"I'll settle for a win, no matter how it comes about, and if we work as hard collectively as we did against Hudders-field we'll give ourselves every chance of getting the result everyone wants."
Smith has had Chester watched on a number of occasions, completing his preparations by sending Joey Jones to Saturday's game where Oxford United were 3-1 winners. And, although several managers have disparaged City's socalled long-ball game, the Dragons boss is eagerly anticipating the challenge.
" Apparently Chester played well on Saturday and were on top until Oxford broke to make it 2-1," he said. "There's an obvious contrast in styles between them and us but there is more than one way of playing football.
"Managers make their own decisions on how to play and that is sometimes dictated by the players available to them. Ian has been getting results but it's our task to prove that our way of playing is best.
"No one has any right to criticise how opposition teams play their football and if they are a direct side I'd like to think we can cope with our players at the back, who are all good in the air and also have a bit of pace as well."
* WREXHAM have included striker Hector Sam in their squad tonight, despite the Trinidad international's weekend dismissal for allegedly stamping on an opponent. The Dragons yesterday have submitted an appeal against the automatic three-match ban, even though the procedure has cost the club £500 it can barely afford.
"I watched the match video half-a-dozen times and there's no way it was an intentional foul," said Smith. "Hector's clattered into the lad and tried to jump over him as he's gone down.
"As far as the referee is concerned it's an understandable mistake and I'm hoping he will take another look at the incident and rescind his decision before we have to take it to an appeal. If he doesn't change his mind, we'll have to accept his point of view - even though we disagree - and take it further."
Meanwhile, Spaniard Juan Ugarte yesterday signed a contract until the end of the season - with his salary paid by donations from two fans. It means Wrexham will definitely have two fit strikers on duty this evening, while Chris Llewellyn is likely to continue at wing-back if Andy Holt is ruled out.
Chester will still be without their injured leading scorer Michael Branch and Cortez Belle, who is serving the second match of a four game suspension.
However, influential midfield player Paul Carden who was badly missed at the weekend, returns after sitting out the Oxford game because of a one-match suspension.