Brora Rangers midfielder Bjorn Wagenaar needs no briefing on the value of a Highland League derby victory against Wick Academy today.
Dutchman Wagenaar made his breakthrough playing amateur football in his homeland prior to joining Brora last summer, representing third-tier outfit Scheveningen.
During his time with the club he was exposed to a passionate rivalry with their local Hague rivals Quick Boys, with games between the two sides attracting crowds of well into four figures where pyrotechnics displays were a regular sight.
Brora’s Caithness rivals Wick are the visitors to Sutherland today, with a crowd of 300 fans permitted inside Dudgeon Park, and Wagenaar is hopeful the home support can help his side record a welcome victory, which would spark memories of derby day in Holland’s west coast.
The 22-year-old said: “In Holland with Scheveningen there is a rivalry with Quick Boys. There are a few big local games against each other which in the past have had massive supports.
“There were a couple of games with more than 3,000 supporters – sometimes there were fireworks.
“It’s a big experience – you play for the big crowds and try to enjoy these games.
“It’s going down a bit now, because the leagues are getting bigger around the whole country. I think it will turn up again in a few years though.
“Up north this is a big game here. From my side the support for me from the Brora fans is very good. I think they like to see a player from another country coming over and playing for the team.
“You miss the fans when you are playing, but you still have to do your job and win the games.
“It’s good the fans are back – I’m looking forward to seeing them back at the ground.
“I enjoyed these games last season as I think everyone did, as we won twice against Wick.
“With the fans behind us against Wick we have a good chance to win the game.
“Hopefully we can give them a good game.”
After being denied a shot at the promotion play-off when the league was cut short due to Covid-19, Brora midfielder Wagenaar is all the more determined to earn another crack at promotion by winning a second successive title, continuing their charge with victory over Wick today.
He added: “We were very strong at the end of last season, so I think we were all ready to go in the play-offs.
“We didn’t get a chance, so everybody is still hoping for it. We proved we could do it last year, so we can do it this year again.
“We played a few games in the Betfred Cup, and against Forfar we were the better team.
“We saw teams in those leagues are not that much stronger than our side – so we see we could end up there as well.
“We got off to a great start, winning 5-0 away from home.
“It could have been a tough game, but we made it easy for ourselves.
“We know what we can do. We just need to be professional and try to win this league. That’s all that matters at the moment.”
Wagenaar is looking to force his way into Steven Mackay’s starting line-up, having come off the bench in last weekend’s triumph against Vale.
He took encouragement from a strong run of displays in the Betfred Cup, including a stunning free-kick in a 2-2 draw against Cove Rangers.
Wagenaar added: “I am hoping to get as many starts as I can, score as many goals as I can and try to bring the club up a league.
“It was a good moment against Cove – it was a great goal.
“I played in all the Betfred Cup games, so I’m looking forward to trying to get a few starts in the league.”