By Paul Brown
Curtis Davies says Villa's Young Lions shouldn't simply be satisfied with being part of Martin O'Neill's pre-season plans - calling on them to do everything they can to break into the first team.
After initially linking up with Luton Town as a 16-year-old trialist, Davies earned a scholarship with the Hatters before making his senior breakthrough at the tender age of 18.
Davies went on to make 62 appearances, scoring two goals and proved a key figure as Luton romped to the League One title in 2004-05.
It was only his first full season in professional football yet Davies also won the Player-of-the-Season award for League One and was named in the PFA League One Team of the Year.
Now Davies believes the likes of Marc Albrighton, Eric Lichaj, Barry Bannan and Andreas Weimann have the same hunger and desire to succeed at an early age, after watching them work their socks off in Portugal during the pre-season tour.
He said: "I think they have to believe in themselves - and I think they do anyway.
"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 from the start.
"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.
"It's not about being there to make up the numbers. It's about wanting to play and wanting to make a contribution.
"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."