Former Liverpool playmaker Steve McManaman reminisced about the 'special' experience of competing in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup ahead of the Academy's first round of games today.
The Reds arrived in Belfast on Sunday for the 31st annual tournament - and the magnitude of the occasion hit home for the starlets as they joined a welcome parade through the streets of Coleraine, cheered by thousands of onlookers.
Back in 1988, a 15-year-old McManaman was rising through the ranks at Liverpool, and he netted a hat-trick in the final as the Reds were crowned Milk Cup champions with a 4-0 victory over Motherwell.
The current crop of aspiring stars will kick off their respective campaigns today, when the U17s face County Armagh in the premier section and the U15s lock horns with County Tyrone at junior level.
"When I went to Northern Ireland there was a sense of elation and excitement because I was going away with Liverpool as a teenager," McManaman told the Liverpool Echo.
"It was something special - because I was representing the club for the first time in a tournament with other Liverpool players and we were trying our best to impress against other teams.
"The main thing is to enjoy yourself, get a little bit of experience and to win the trophy. To bring the trophies home.
"It was fantastic to score a hat-trick in the final. It was probably the last hat-trick that I scored so when that happens you enjoy it. At 15, I didn't know if I was going to be a professional footballer so it was the best moment in my life.
"Once we were in the final we wanted to win the game and I had a particularly good game. The most important thing was winning the trophy because it meant that we were doing something correct.
"I remember Motherwell being difficult to play against and thankfully what I lacked in size I had in skill and movement. I was always a bit of a dribbler and that's what helped me at that age."
The Liverpool squads touched down at George Best Belfast City Airport on Sunday - and their first action of the trip was to attend a parade through the streets of Coleraine where, despite the teeming rain, all 44 teams received a warm reception from excited locals.
The young Reds will now spend five days at the prestigious competition before returning home to Liverpool on Saturday.
And McManaman insists the whole experience will prove to be a learning curve for all involved.
He said: "When we travelled to Northern Ireland we were away for 10 days and you think about how you will respond to it? Will you be home sick and how are you going to get on with it? Are you going to improve as a player?
"The tournament was a great learning curve to help you in later life. It's not going to guarantee that you will play for the first team five years later, but it gave you responsibility in travelling away and you were going to take part in a tournament against other clubs for the first time.
"I thought if we did well and we did lift the trophy then people will remember it. Liverpool's first team in 1988 were winning absolutely everything and when the U16 team brought a trophy home from their travels it boded really well for the club."