By Tony Leighton
Walsall are set to lock horns with Wolverhampton Wanderers for the first time in a decade and Saddlers supporters cannot wait for Tuesday's evening's short trip to Molineux for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy First Round tie.
Wolves are one of several clubs that lie close to Walsall, with Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City among the big-name near-neighbours.
But Saddlers super fan Stan Blandford, who remarkably has not missed a League game home or away since May 1977 - that's around 1,700 consecutive matches watching his favourites in every division of The Football League - told football-league.co.uk: "Wolves are the team we love to beat best.
"We haven't had many chances to play them over the years, and more often that not they've some out on top, but it's great when we can put one over them.
"The last time we beat them was in the 1999/00 Championship season, when our striker Andy Rammell got the winner against Wolves at Molineux - then in the next few weeks he hit winners against Birmingham at home and Albion away.
"Sadly we were relegated that season, but we got back through the Play-Offs a couple of years later. In the two seasons that us and Wolves were in the Championship together though, they did the double over us both times."
The two clubs are now once again in the same division following Wolves' relegation from the Championship last term, and they are set to meet in their first League 1 game of the season in a fortnight's time at Molineux.
But first up is the Johnstone's Paint Trophy encounter and Blandford, who lives just a couple of miles from Walsall's Banks's Stadium, is desperate for not only a win in the big local derby but also a good run in the competition.
"Beating Wolves would be great for local pride, as ever," said the Saddlers loyal supporter. "But it would also be a big morale boost to take back into the league after our poor performance in Saturday's 3-0 defeat by Preston.
"It could hopefully also be the first step on the road to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. We've got to the Area Final twice but lost out both times, and I would love nothing more than to see my team play at Wembley.
"We had a great day out at the Millennium Stadium when we beat Reading in the 2001 League 1 Play-Off final, probably my best day as a Walsall supporter.
"There have been other great days as well, but lots of disappointments too and that term 'long suffering supporters' might have been coined for us Walsall fans.
"But seeing my team run out at Wembley would make up for those disappointing days among all the thousands of miles I've travelled to watch them. And the Johnstone's Paint Trophy definitely gives us that Wembley chance."
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