Grimsby Town captain James McKeown has admitted he’s ‘desperate to win’ in the derby against Scunthorpe United at Blundell Park tomorrow (kick-off 1pm).
Anthony Limbrick’s side host Paul Hurst’s men in Sky Bet League Two as the rivals go head-to-head in league competition for the first time since 2005.
And skipper McKeown has emphasised the importance of getting a victory in the ‘biggest derby’ he’s played in so far.
Speaking exclusively on iFollow Mariners, he said: “We need to deliver under pressure – that’s the key – we need to win a game of football, and everyone’s well aware of that.
“I can’t think of a better game to play in this situation than the one we’ve got this Saturday.
“I think this is the biggest derby I’ve played in so far, and I played in the FA Cup games against Scunthorpe in 2013, and I’ve played against Lincoln City plenty of times.
“I don’t know if it’s a location thing or because we haven’t played them as much, but I just really want to beat them.
“I don’t think there’s any point in dressing it up or trying to downplay it – it’s a derby and I want to win because we need to win a game of football, that’s absolutely clear.
“It’s a proper game of football. I wanted to be a professional footballer to play in front of full stadiums – you want to play in these games.
“If you play for Grimsby Town these are the games that it’s all about.
“The atmosphere we can have at home can be unbelievable, and I’m absolutely desperate to win a game of football.
“It would make everyone’s Christmas a hell of a lot better if we win – that’s the first thing.
“The second thing is we’re playing our local rivals, and the third is that with Paul Hurst being there it adds a bit to the game.
“There’s no point hiding from the fact – it means absolutely everything for us as a group of lads, for the staff, and for the fans.
“It’s fine me doing interviews and saying we’ve improved, which we have, but it’s about winning games of football and we haven’t done that for too long.”
The 30-year-old, who has made more than 400 appearances for Town, says the match will be a special occasion and will evoke plenty of emotions.
He said: “Come 1pm on Saturday whoever you are – whether you’ve played in this derby once, 15 times, or never – you’re going to have nerves.
“You have to have an element of nerves, and if you’re not a little bit nervous walking out then I’m not sure you’re doing the right job because you’re going to have to perform with a lot of expectation, and the spotlight, on you.
“We have to deliver under pressure because we know we need to win a game of football.
“And we’re playing our local rivals – what a game that is for us.
“You want to play in a game where it means a lot because I know when I go home on Saturday night, and when I see people, that’s what people are going to want to talk about and it means a hell of a lot.
“We couldn’t have done anymore this week in training, but it’s time as players that we have to go out and produce on Saturday.”
And McKeown says Hurst, who guided Town to promotion back to the EFL as manager in 2016, will be desperate to win the game for Scunthorpe.
He said: “From a fan’s point of view, Paul Hurst being there adds to it massively.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of him – I’m not going to try and hide the fact that I have so much respect for him.
“And I do hope that he gets the reception that I think he probably deserves.
“I know that he will want to win this game of football so, so much, and I know how much we want to win it.
“We will leave it all out there. I can’t stand here and say we’re definitely going to win, but I can say that we all won’t accept anything less than giving it our all.
“And hopefully that’s enough because I think not winning for so long as well, building up into this game, I think it’s important.”