Aston Villa's hopes that its current crop of young academy players can emulate the success of their 2002 FA Youth Cup winning side have been given a huge boost - thanks to a secret weapon.
For when their opponents see the team-sheet and the side they are to face in the first leg semi-final at Villa Park they will see at least one name they will recognise - Martin O'Neill.
The Villa boss has been a regular on the sidelines at all youth cup matches this season and youth coach Tony McAndrew has revealed the first team manager regularly joins him in the dug-out.
He said: "Martin's interest in the youth team and in the FA Youth Cup in particular has been phenomenal. He has been with us all the way and the joke about him sitting on the bench started when he came up to see us play Colchester.
"He got stuck in traffic and was going to be late and the only way we could make sure he reached us was to put him on the team sheet!
"Martin was great with the kids - going into the dressing room at half-time and encouraging them. He flew in from the training break in Spain last week for the Carlisle game and again we put him on the team sheet so he ended up in the dug-out with us again.
"He was delighted to sit on the bench with us and he was fantastic. He did not interfere at all but he was so supportive.
"When we asked him to speak to the players he was brilliant. He did not try and take over or interfere but his presence was such a lift for the players and good for the staff as well."
McAndrew hopes the current crop of academy braves will go on and follow the 2002 team - a team of youngsters who not only did the club proud in the cup final but have gone on to enjoy rewarding careers in the game.
He said: "It was a great season in 2002 and a great achievement to win the Youth Cup but the most important thing was we managed to get a number of kids into the first team that year.
"That is our job and the aim of the academy to provide players who are so good that the manager wants to pick them. We were fortunate with that side that we got a few through."
Among the stars in the 4-2 aggregate victory over Everton in the final that year were the Moore brothers, Stefan and Luke, Liam Ridgewell, Steven Davis and Peter Whittingham to name a few.
"Those who did not make the first team here are still playing football professionally somewhere which is fantastic," a proud McAndrew claims.
Villa's opponents that year Everton did not fare quite so well although young striker Wayne Rooney was of course the exception. McAndrew recalls: "You could see then that Rooney was a bit special but I think overall we deserved to win the cup that year and I reiterate the most important thing was we managed to get some players into the first team.
"The other lads have managed to make a reasonable living from it which is what it is all about. "
McAndrew is eager to point out the academy is a team. He refuses to take any of the credit as does academy boss Bryan Jones and fellow coach Gordan Cowans.
He said: "So many people are involved in making the academy tick. You need the people who are prepared to go out there and find the kids and then you need the coaching staff to spend hours with them.
"We have got great staff, from the guys who go out scouting to the part-time coaches - it is a massive team effort.
"It is wonderful that we managed to find some really great footballing talent."
McAndrew likens finding a future star player to that of discovering a diamond - rough at the edges but once polished, dazzling to behold.
He said: "Players have to have natural talent but also the right attitude. I won't say they have to make sacrifices because that is too strong a word. What sacrifice is there to come to a football club and play football?
"But they have to be focused and determined. We have also set standards of behaviour and we are quite tough on them.
"We get invited all over the world and always get invited back because not only do the youngsters perform well but they behave well. That is a very important part of the academy.
"We have a duty to make decent people and decent footballers and that is a philosophy we have at this football club."
As Villa's youngsters prepare for the biggest match of their careers so far, McAndrew reminds them that they must not take their position in the semi-final for granted. Three years ago Villa's youth side reached the FA Youth Cup Final only to lose to Middlesbrough.
He said: "We feel we have done okay but there is always room to improve. You should never be satisfied. We find out our semi-final opponents on Tuesday and it will be either Port Vale or Chelsea."
Some Villa fans will have breathed a sigh of relief to see Manchester United knocked out in the previous round by Carlisle. Villa, in turn, beat Carlisle in the quarter-finals, but McAndrew said all the sides left in it were capable of winning.
"Youth football is not a game where you can say this is an easy game or that is a hard one." he said. "Kids being kids on any given day you never know how they are going to perform. They are young boys and they make mistakes.
"But this is a fantastic competition. Our players have sampled a trip to Carlisle on a cold Thursday night with 2,000 people watching them.
"We have played against Ipswich at Villa Park and some of our young lads had never played at Villa Park before. We took them there for the day, in the dressing room just to get them used to it.
"But we also have two difficult derby games in the league to come first against Coventry and Blues.
"We are up there in the Youth League and doing okay but we have to keep the guys focused. We have had a really good season so far but we don't want the lads getting carried away. We haven't actually achieved anything yet."
When Villa won the cup on 2002, 20,000 packed into Villa park and 14,000 for the final they lost in 2005. McAndrew hopes the fans will come in their droves for the semi-final next month. He said: "It will be great for the players but we don't want them to get carried away by it all."
Among those cheering from the stands are likely to be a few ex-academy stars too - the likes of Craig Gardner and Gabby Agbonlahor.
McAndrew added: "There are several of our academy players in the first team now. Those not in the team have gone on to pursue a career elsewhere while providing money for the manager to go on and rebuild.
"That is another success. We want to provide Villa players and players the club can perhaps get some revenue for. But you can't beat seeing them make it at Villa. It is very pleasing for example to see young Gabby come through and get his England call up. That is what our job is all about."
Of the current crop Nathan Delfouneso, at 17, looks the next likely to make the grade. He is already training with the first team and has even earned himself a squad number.
McAndrew beams: "Nathan has done really well. His success has been terrific, it just gives everybody involved a lift."
Come May, Villa fans will be hoping it is the FA Youth Cup that will be needing a lift - all the way back to the trophy cabinet at Villa Park.
* Where are they now?
Villa's FA Youth Cup winning team not only achieved great glory back in May 2002 but went on to enjoy rewarding careers in the game.
Most of the Villa players involved in that two-leg final against Everton went on to make the grade professionally - a fitting testament to the club's youth academy and its coaching staff.
Everton's youngsters were less successful although a young striker called Wayne Rooney broke the mould joining Manchester United in a £20 million move in 2004.
WAYNE HENDERSON: Villa's goalkeeper whose stunning 33rd-minute reflex save denied Wayne Rooney and ensured Villa held on to their 4-2 aggregate lead. After leaving Villa he went to Brighton before being snapped up by Championship side Preston North End. He is their first choice keeper but, now 24, has missed most of this season with a back injury.
ANDREW WELLS: Released by Villa in 2003.
LIAM RIDGEWELL: Young central defender outplayed Wayne Rooney in the first leg and went to play regularly in Villa's first team. In the summer the former England Under 21 International became one of a rare breed to make move across the Second City joining Premier League rivals Blues in a £2.5 million deal.
RYAN AMOO: Joined Northampton Town in 2004 after leaving Villa and went on to date Celebrity Big Brother star Jade Goody. Currently with Lincoln City.
PETER WHITTINGHAM: "Whitts" flourished in the Villa first team making his debut in midfield against Newcastle in 2003. Now with Championship side Cardiff City and pursuing the FA Cup for real.
PETER HYNES: Now a lorry driver back in his native Ireland but enjoyed a career with Doncaster, Cheltenham and Tamworth upon leaving Villa.
COLIN MARSHALL: The 24-year-old has played for half-a-dozen Scottish clubs since leaving Villa and is now with Forfar.
STEVEN DAVIS: Became a fully-fledged Villa first-team player and attracted interest from a host of clubs including Manchester United before leaving for Fulham in a £4.5 million deal last season. The Northern Ireland International is on loan with Scottish Premier League side Rangers.
STEPHEN FOLEY: The Dublin born youngster went on to play in the 2005 FA Youth Cup with Villa only to suffer defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough before moving on to AFC Bournemouth.
LUKE MOORE: Together with brother Stefan was considered player of the tournament. Scored in the 4-1 first leg win at Goodison and made his Villa debut against Birmingham City in 2003. Still only 22 he was last night heading for West Bromwich Albion on loan with the view to a £3.5 million permanent deal at the end of this season.
STEFAN MOORE: The elder of the Moore brothers also scored in the vital first leg. Played 29 times for Villa's first team and was considered a major prospect but took his eye off his game and went on to play for Millwall and then QPR but was recently released.
JAMES O'CONNOR: Villa youngster went on to join Championship side Port Vale after impressing them during a loan spell.
MICHAEL HUSBANDS: Now 24, he enjoyed spells at several clubs upon leaving Villa including Hereford United, Bristol Rovers, Walsall and Macclesfield and now plays for Midland side Telford United.