THE Deva Stadium has the honour of playing host to some of the best young players in the country tonight.
Chester’s home is the stage for the Victory Shield showdown between England Under 16s and their Northern Ireland counterparts (7.40pm).
The big clash, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports One, has already attracted the interest of representatives of Premier League, Serie A and La Liga clubs keen to catch the next Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen.
The Blues’ long-serving secretary Tony Allan believes it is a match that should capture the imagination of every football fan in the city.
Allan said: “We’ve staged these type of matches before and it’s absolute honour to have been asked by the FA to do it again.
“We must be doing something right and it is good for the club, but also for the city itself.
“I’m urging people to come along and watch some of the potential Premier League and England players of the future. It should be a great night.”
This season’s Victory Shield began last month with Arsenal’s Zak Ansah scoring the only goal of the game as England beat Wales while Northern Ireland lost 2-1 to Scotland.
Overseeing the England U16s is Birkenhead-born Kenny Swain, a former European Cup winner with Aston Villa.
He said: “The likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Theo Walcott and Joe Cole have all played U16s football for England so hopefully some of our current players will be able to follow in their footsteps.”
England’s squad will include Nicky Barmby’s son Jack, who is on the books at Manchester United, plus three other youngsters from the North West.
Nick Powell is aiming to come through Dario Gradi’s famous youth system at Crewe Alexandra while midfield dynamo, Robbie Cotton, is signed to Blackburn Rovers. Shay Facey is with Manchester City.
But the player most eyes will be trained on is Queens Park Rangers striker Raheem Sterling, the 14-year-old wonderkid who is being tipped to break into Championship outfit’s first team before the season is out.
England U16s were last at the Deva against Northern Ireland four years ago when they were beaten by a stoppage-time goal.
Tickets cost £5 for adults on the gate or £3 if bought earlier today. Children get in for a £1.
Chester Allstars, who consist of the best Under 11s schoolboy talent in the district, will be the England team’s mascots for tonight’s match.
The youngsters will bring the St George’s Cross flag out on to the pitch and stand with the England players as the national anthem is played before moving to the sidelines to act as ball boys.