Former Hawks ace Shaun Wilkinson will have mixed feelings during tonight’s Blue Square Bet South derby clash.
Shaun Gale’s Hawks make the short trip to Eastleigh (7.45pm), where Wilkinson is assistant-manager to Ian Baird.
The rivalry between the two sides is well documented as tensions run deep, resulting in some heated encounters over the years.
But Wilkinson, who played his part in the legendary Hawks side of 2007-08 when they shocked Notts County and Swansea in the FA Cup, before giving Liverpool a scare at Anfield, still has great affection for the Westleigh Park outfit.
He said: ‘They are my local club and I went to them after playing reserve team football at Brighton & Hove Albion.
‘In that respect, I regard them as my first senior club and I loved playing with the likes of Timmy Hambley, Liam Daish and Paul Wood.
‘The FA Cup experience was fantastic and something I don’t think will be matched in the non-league game for a long, long time.
‘I remember at Swansea, at the end, I’d never felt so battered in my life.
‘Since joining Eastleigh I have been back to watch the Hawks a couple of times and have always been made welcome by the fans.
‘What surprised me was how quiet it has become at Westleigh Park.’
Things turned sour for Wilkinson in 2009 when he suffered a badly broken ankle.
He was operated on and had metal pins and plates inserted into his foot, before spending 18 months battling back to fitness.
After a number of setbacks the tenacious midfielder worked his way back to fitness but was disappointed not to regain his place and was released in 2011.
Wilkinson added: ‘I didn’t want to leave the club and I was forced out.
‘A few things went on that I wasn’t happy with and there were plenty of hidden agendas which became laughable in the end.
‘In the end I had to move on for the sake of my family and progressing in the game.
‘I wouldn’t want to air any dirty washing in public though, because I have far too much respect for chairman Derek Pope and others at the club.
‘Derek (Pope) paid me the whole time I was off injured and what he has done for that football club over the years should be respected.’
Wilkinson, who still has the framed Liverpool jersey from the Cup run, in pride of place in his household, is plotting the Hawks’ downfall tonight, though.
‘We know what to expect from the Hawks and they will be up for it,’ he said.
‘They will pack the midfield, try to hit us on the counter-attack and be happy to go away with a point.
‘I am expecting another tight game, because there is usually a bit of bite about this fixture.
‘We are still a work in progress and it will take time for the new players coming in to gel.
‘Our pitch is not in a good state at the moment and both teams will find it difficult to play football.’