The relationship between Birmingham City and Saturday's opponents Arsenal has grown in recent years says Brian Dick.
When former Liberia international Christopher Wreh arrived at St Andrew's in October 1999, the intention was he would stay three months, provide Birmingham City with more firepower and return to Arsenal to challenge Davor Suker and Thierry Henry for a place in Arsène Wenger's first team.
In the end he remained only two months but was nevertheless relatively successful. One goal in seven games that on his debut at Grimsby Town and just one defeat during that time had some suggesting he would make a permanent £1 million transfer.
Trevor Francis was pleased with the 24-year-old's contribution though later comments attributed to David Sullivan suggested Wreh had refused to play one game on account of a bruised thumb.
The striker went back to London, played just once more for Arsenal and drifted down the leagues eventually landing at Bishop's Stortford in 2003. It was at that stage he decided a career in music was for him.
As remarkable as that decline is, Wreh might wish to console himself with the fact he has proved to be something of a trailblazer.
Six more players have followed in his footsteps and all of them have made a big impact, with the possible exception of Johan Djourou.
Most, like Fabrice Muamba, have chosen to stay in the Midlands, others have done so and moved on but Nicklas Bendtner has provided the blueprint arrive a boy, leave a man with a case so compelling even Wenger has to find a place in his star-studded squad.
The special relationship was taken to a new level last season, when a matter of days before Birmingham kicked off what they hoped would be a promotion campaign, three young Gunners added ammunition to Steve Bruce's squad.
Muamba, Bendtner and Sebastian Larsson arrived wholesale and brought with them the quality that would ultimately put City back in the Premiership.
After 34 league matches and virtually as many energetic and destructive performances at the heart of the midfield, Muamba was voted young player of the season by the club's supporters.
Larsson made 43 appearances, scored decisive goals against the Cities of Leicester and Cardiff and made many, many more with his accurate delivery and excellent vision. Both have signed permanently and both are now regular starters in Alex McLeish's team.
But Bendtner was the star. In 42 games he finished behind Gary McSheffrey as second top scorer with 11 league goals.
Almost idle at times, he was something of an idol around the penalty area when his eye for a pass and classy finishing gave Birmingham the edge they otherwise lacked.
Djourou followed last summer and though he failed to establish himself before being called back by Wenger as cover for the African Cup of Nations, there is every reason to suggest he will not be the last.
The two strongest links in the chain that stretches the length of the M40 are Wenger and Birmingham's managing director Karren Brady who in the last ten years have struck up a smooth working relationship. On the strength of Brady's assurances Wenger has entrusted some of his brightest uncut diamonds into the care of Birmingham City.
Even at 18 years old it was clear Bendtner was always going to make his career at Arsenal yet his French manager released into Bruce's charge a teenager, whose tendency to be a bit flash meant he needed to be handled very carefully. At times the biggest part of the Dane's 6ft 5in frame was his head.
Aside from schoolyard spats about who should take penalties, his year at Birmingham proved to be beneficial to all parties. He matured as a player but most importantly as a person, the incident with Emmanuel Adebayor notwithstanding.
This season he has appeared in 22 of Arsenal's games and while most of them have been as a substitute, without his experience in the Championship it would have been far fewer.
One of Wenger's major concerns is that when he sends a youngster out on loan, he will not only be looked after off the pitch, but played regularly on it.
Even the least successful of the loan deals saw Djourou make 13 Premier League starts while in 2006-7 no one appeared in more league games than the Scandinavian pair.
Wenger becomes frustrated when his lends players out and they are not used. Arturo Lupoli spent half of last season on the bench at Derby County while it is difficult to claim Charlton Athletic got best use out of Alexandre Song Billong at the end of last term.
Birmingham's willingness to play a key part in player development has also put them in a good position when it comes to players being transferred between the clubs.
The precedent was set in 2003 when Matthew Upson was sold for £1 million despite interest from several other better placed clubs.
Almost as much as Christophe Dugarry, Upson went on to play a massive part in Birmingham's survival in their first Premier League campaign and it was with a blue shirt on his back that he forced his way into Sven-Göran Eriksson's England side.
Birmingham got four good years out of Upson and it was only the manner of his departure when he openly agitated for a move away, that has smeared what could have been an exemplary legacy.
No deal required more negotiation and trust, however, than the one that saw Jermaine Pennant join City first on loan and then permanently.
Troubled soul that he was Pennant's early weeks with Birmingham were spent in prison the culmination of a string of driving convictions.
Bruce did everything that he could to support the winger and eventually convinced Wenger to part with a player he'd signed as a 15-year-old. Like Upson, Pennant's career turned a corner at St Andrew's.
All of which means that while this weekend's encounter will see players and supporters open hostilities once more, the hands that stretch across the boardroom table will be as warmly proffered as ever.