Jack Grealish loves playing against Albion.

The Aston Villa midfielder will aim to score against them for a third time this season when he arrives at the Amex on Saturday.

But he has not always finished a match against Albion with a smile on his face The Argus can reveal the secret role played by a former Villa captain in handing him his only blank so far against the Seagulls.

Grealish has netted in the last three meetings between the teams, starting with a late strike to deny them the Championship title in 2017.

He played a massive part in turning the game at Villa this season on its head as the man who was fouled for Aaron Mooy’s second yellow, scored the equaliser and set up the last-gasp winner.

For a less happy ending, you have to back to an FA Youth Cup tie at the Amex in December 2011.

His surname stood out on the team sheet – but only because we wondered whether he was related to former Albion midfielder Tony (which he isn’t).

Happily, youth team boss Martin Hinshelwood and the coaching staff knew more than we did.

Hinshelwood called in development squad player Ryan Simmonds, who had joined the club after skippering Villa to the FA Youth Cup final.

Quick, busy and a tricky dribbler, Simmonds was very similar in style to young Grealish.

They told Simmonds to play against their defence and basically ‘be’ Grealish in training sessions ahead of the tie.

The planning paid off and Albion’s own emerging star, Jake Forster-Caskey, scored the only goal with a free-kick.

The Argus:

Jack Grealish looks to close down Jack MacFarlane in the FA Youth Cup. Picture: BHAFC

Albion right-back Jack MacFarlane still recalls a lot about his contest with Grealish, who played wide left for Villa.

MacFarlane told The Argus: “With regards to preparation for the game, we trained with our development squad.

“We were doing a lot of attack versus defence drills as, even though our style of play was possession based, we didn’t expect to enjoy a lot of the ball due to Villa being a Premier League academy and us being Championship.

“Ryan essentially played the role of Grealish in training as they were similar in style, both quick, technically gifted and enjoyed playing on the left to cut inside on their right foot “We were warned that they did have a few international players in the squad.

“I remember us being nervous but confident as at the time we were top of our respective division.

The Argus:

Gus Poyet also allowed us to have Jake Forster-Caskey available for selection.

“Jake had already played for the first team a few times at that point and had represented England at youth level himself.

“Scouts that had recently watched Villa play had given us details on how they set up and how certain individuals played.

“I was informed that the left winger (Grealish) was technically sound and always cut inside on to his favoured right foot, looking to link up with the striker.

“I was always confident against any player trying to get round me on the outside as no one could ever match me for pace.

“However, this of course wasn’t going to be a skill I could utilise to my advantage when up against him.

“To no surprise on the matchday, Villa pressed us high as we attempted to play out deep from the back, a style of play Gus Poyet wanted to see throughout the youth set-up when he was first team manager there.

“I recall us struggling to get out and play our normal free-flowing football.

“However in the second half, after a verbal beasting from our youth team manager, Martin Hinshelwood, we were braver on the ball and got ourselves into the game.”

Macfarlane was impressed by Grealish and fellow attackers .

He said: “Technically they were fantastic. Luckily we defended well as a team and our youth team captain, Tom Vickers, had the best game I have ever seen him play in a Brighton shirt.

“When Grealish attacked from the left, he always ran with pace, but close control and always cut inside.

“This forced me to continuously have to call back my right winger, Chris Cumming-Bart to help me out defensively, which he did superbly that night.

“I think it was about half way through the second half when Jake Forster-Caskey struck an unbelievable left footed free kick off the inside of the crossbar and in.

The Argus:

“I recall Brad Barry (nephew of former England international Gareth Barry) turning to me before he struck it and saying, ‘I hope to God this goes in!’

“The last 20 minutes was a Villa onslaught with wave after wave of attack coming from the left and right side.

“I recall myself and our striker Shamir Goodwin (later known as Fenelon) both going down with cramp towards the end. But we held on for what was a memorable win.”

Grealish has gone from strength to strength. He was earning praise for his efforts for Villa last Sunday even as they lost 6-1 to Manchester City.

MacFarlane’s career path has been rather different. He played at Eastbourne Borough before taking a first-class degree in law at the University of Portsmouth.

He now works as a health and and safety compliance supervisor with Fareham-based TJ Transport and his sporting energies are directed towards half marathons and indoor climbing.

Of course he sees Grealish doing his stuff on TV and still recognises the player he marked - up to a point.

He said: “He’s a remarkably improved player. I knew he was a top player when up against him, definitely one of the best wingers I had played against at youth team level.

“Evidently being the first team club captain he has also matured into a leader on the pitch.

“It was a big game, unfortunately for me the biggest game I ever played in.

“But a few of the lads in that side went on to have Football League careers such as Robert Hunt, Brad Barry, Jake Forster-Caskey, Shamir Goodwin and Glenn Rea.

Solly March was a second year scholar at the time but we signed him from Lewes earlier in the season and he was cup-tied so couldn’t play.”