When I was a kid my choice of football team was often the subject of much mockery.
In the early to mid 1990s, my heroes weren’t Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler or Ian Wright, and posters on my wall were more David Pugh skinning a Hereford United full-back that Steve McManaman marauding past Gary Neville at Anfield.
I was lucky (I think). When my Dad first took me to watch Chester FC I was eight and they were under the stewardship of Graham Barrow and on their way to promotion from Division Three. Who wouldn’t stick around for that?! It kept my interest week after week and I was well on my way to bonding for life with the Blues.
But the 1994/95 season was one of constant struggle that ended in relegation, and for a nine-year-old who was surrounded by fans of the Premier League in his school, it was a testing time.
But that following season made me stay and ensured that a life-long devotion to Chester was the only path for me, a Cestrian. And while the football during that 1995/96 season was enjoyable, it was the presence of Cyrille Regis that kept me coming back.
But he was no spring chicken when he arrived at the Blues.
In his late thirties and having lost a yard or two of pace, nobody really anticipated the impact that he would have.
For someone who had seen only limited quality when watching the lower echelons of the Football League, Cyrille was a wizard to me. His ability had not diminished and he was never anything but flawless. He was a hero in the blue and white.
He might have only played 29 times in Division Three before injury eventually brought an end to an illustrious career transcended simply the game of football, but he left an indellible mark on me as a youngster and many other Blues fans, I suspect.
And as I got older and learned more about the struggles he faced with racism, how he blazed a trail for black footballers in the British game and how he did it all with a smile on his face, it only added to the legend.
I can still remember the sheer delight I felt when he came over and signed my match day programme as I waited in the drizzle by the players’ tunnel. A pat on the head and a few kind words that meant the world to a young lad whose footballing heroes were in short supply.
That season was the happiest I have been as a Chester fan.
There have been highs and lows along the way since then but a Chester fan I remain and Cyrille Regis played a big part in that. Those chants of ‘Nice One Cyrille’ won’t ever be forgotten.
So tonight I shall raise a glass in honour of my first footballing hero, a man who I idolised and a man who made me love my football club enough to shun the lure of the Premier League for good.
Rest in peace, Cyrille - I can’t thank you enough.