Ahead of Liverpool's FA Youth Cup third round tie with Swindon Town on Tuesday night, we catch up with U18s boss Steve Cooper who tells us why this competition is important for the development of youngsters.
Last season the young Reds lost to Swansea City at the third-round stage under the watchful eye of a certain Brendan Rodgers, but with the Academy taking centre stage again this season with youngsters like Raheem Sterling featuring prominently in the first team, the crop of 2012-13 will be hoping for a good cup run.
You can watch the game exclusively live on LFC TV and LFC TV Online with our coverage starting at 6.30pm GMT.
Firstly Steve, next up is the FA Youth Cup tie at Swindon, how much are the lads looking forward to it?
They are looking forward to it and the FA Youth Cup has a great tradition throughout the country. The reality is it's another game but it will be good for the boys to play in a different environment to what they are used to. It is different for them playing at a football league ground under the floodlights as opposed to playing on a Saturday morning. It's good for us as well to assess them to see how they handle the situation. Players have to adapt nowadays and deal with what is in front of them.
In many ways this is like a cup final for Swindon as Liverpool are a big scalp. What will your message be to your players before the game?
We need to prepare for this game as we would any game. We have a vision of how we want our teams to play and the style of play with everyone understanding their role and responsibility. Like we would for any game, we will go out there willing to give our all and our best and ensure we compete and earn the right to play. I know that sounds a bit of a cliché but that applies for every game. We have had times this year when we have been a bit off the pace with our pressing and showing a bit too much respect to the opposition and it has gone against us a little bit. We have given the players a message that while we of course want to play good flowing football, we have to work hard for each other as a team.
Tell us about your preparations for this tie?
We travelled down to Swindon on Monday. We are fortunate that the club back our elite game programme and we do it right with an overnight stay - which is becoming more often nowadays. It is a three-and-a-half hour coach ride to Swindon so it wouldn't be best preparation to drive down on the day, particularly with the bad traffic you can get through Birmingham. What it does is give the players no excuse not to perform. Everything is set up at this club to give the players the best opportunity to perform at their maximum.
I know you've had Swindon watched - what sort of test are you expecting?
They are doing well in the league and they are used to winning, which is a good habit as we all know. They will come into the game with great confidence and momentum. We know some of the staff that work there and we have had a good relationship with Swindon over the years. There is a lot of respect between both clubs but on the night we will very much be focusing on our job and trying to win this cup tie.
This tie has to be decided on the night with extra-time and penalties if necessary. Have you practised penalties at all?
We've spoken about it and it might be needed. Everything we do is about trying to prepare the boys for the future, whether it's the way we play and their responsibilities and off the pitch stuff, so it would be a little bit naive if we didn't look at penalties.
It's your first game in charge of a Liverpool side in the FA Youth Cup - how much are you enjoying this job?
I really enjoy this job and have always been very proud to work here in any job - and I've done a few different jobs here. This is the biggest club in the world and for all the staff who work at the Academy we feel very privileged to work for Liverpool FC. We will fight for our lives and give it our all to ensure we reach the objectives of the job and that is to get the boys at their peak performance which will ultimately maximise the potential for the future.
It's been a great year for the Academy hasn't it with more players than ever getting a chance at first-team level...
It's a good place to be at the moment. I think any thriving youth department needs an exit route at the end of the Academy development years. We have that and it's great to see the likes of Andre Wisdom, Suso, Jack Robinson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling getting their chance. I know the players at the Academy talk about it and they probably think if they keep working hard then they might not be too far away themselves. We have got to make sure as staff that we help them and give them the right opportunity and leave no stone unturned so that if they are good enough then they there's no reason why they can't be pushed through as well.