Aston Villa defender Curtis Davies has urged the club’s young hopefuls to seize the moment and force their way into the first team.
Bodymoor Heath academy graduates including Marc Albrighton, Eric Lichaj and Barry Bannan have impressed during pre-season.
Nathan Delfouneso, Andreas Weimann, Ciaran Clark and Jonathan Hogg are also on manager Martin O’Neill’s first team radar.
All of those promising reserves have participated during pre-season and took part in Villa’s training camp in Portugal last week.
Now Davies has challenged the youngsters to seal their places in the Premier League squad of 25 Villa must name by September 1.
The former Luton Town centre-half made his first team debut with the Hatters at 18 and believes if players are good enough they are old enough.
“I think they have to believe in themselves – and I think they do anyway,” said Davies.
“They shouldn’t be going to places like Portugal with the squad and then when they get back think they’ll just be in the reserves – they are not really doing themselves justice.
“But I don’t think the lads are like that here. You have to go on pre-season tours with confidence and think ‘I’m going to do as well as I can and give the manager no choice.’
“With the senior lads, we are friends off the pitch but we all want to play. They should have that same hunger.
“It’s easier to say about the young lads that they are just excited to be in the set-up.
“But I have never been a believer of that because I’ve played senior football from an early age.
“I see that in our younger lads – they want to break through and break into the team and that’s encouraging to see.
“They’ve worked hard in Portugal and I can see they are desperate to make an impact this season.
“That’s very promising. As soon as I was in squads, I wanted to play. That was it.
“If you have that mindset from a young age it makes you stronger – ruthless – when you’re a senior and makes you a stronger person.”
O’Neill also has confidence in Villa’s next generation of stars.
“All the first team players have respect for them which is important but of course the step up is immense.”