By Chris Harris
It's not unrealistic to suggest that Kyle Bartley will have a lot to celebrate at the end of the season - and not just because the centre back turns 18 at the end of May.
Bartley is a regular for Arsenal's second string, currently challenging for the Reserve League South title, and has played his fair share of games for Steve Bould's Under-18 side, still going strong at the top of their Academy League division.
But ask the Manchester-born defender which prize he wants most of all and his answer is unequivocal - the FA Youth Cup.
Bartley has been an ever-present in this season's Cup campaign, helping Arsenal to a thrilling win at highly-fancied Aston Villa before comfortable victories over Wolves and Sunderland set up a mouth-watering tie at Tottenham on March 5. It's a date which looms large in Bartley's diary.
"Everyone wanted Spurs," Bartley told Arsenal.com. "We're into the Quarter-Finals now, we are playing Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and we are all looking forward to that one. Hopefully we can get through.
"To be honest the Youth Cup is the big one. It's the one we really want to win. Arsenal haven't won it for a good few years so that's what we are all hoping for. It would be terrific to win it, especially for Steve [Bould]. It's a great experience, travelling to these games like the first team do, and everyone really enjoys it.
"We feel like a team, we have kept the same shape and the same players all the way through the competition and it's going really well. I played in last season's Youth Cup, I came on as a substitute against Burnley, but this is my first one as a regular."
Arsenal last lifted the Youth Cup in 2001 when the likes of Jeremie Aliadiere and Steven Sidwell were talented teenagers. An impressive 4-0 win at Sunderland in the last round has convinced Bartley that Arsenal have the flair - and the defensive strength - to go all the way this season.
"It's always a tough match going to Sunderland, especially at the Stadium of Light," he reflected. "But we got the early goal and that made us more comfortable.
"The defence will take a lot of confidence from the clean sheet, that's what we play for. We limited their chances and we were happy about that. They didn't create much and I think that started from the players up front. We've been working a lot on pressuring from the front and working as a team, defending collectively. We did that well at Sunderland and hopefully we can keep doing that."
Arsenal TV Online are hoping to bring you LIVE coverage of Arsenal's FA Youth Cup tie at Tottenham on Thursday, March 5. Stay close to Arsenal.com for full details.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 19 Feb 2009