David O'Leary has hailed the impact of Aston Villa's sports scientist Steve McGregor in enabling one of the smallest squads in the Premiership to cope with the recent demanding fixture list.
Villa successfully negotiated a schedule of five matches in 13 days undefeated with the same players, culminating in the weekend FA Cup triumph at Hull.
O'Leary gives much of the credit to McGregor in ensuring his squad are in the best possible shape in terms of fitness and dieting programmes.
The Villa chief said: 'Steve does such a good job with the way he works with the lads on a daily basis. We don't make a big song and dance about the sports scientist side of things here. But he is one of the best around.
'He is not unique. Arsene Wenger has probably been doing this for longer than anyone else. But Steve's techniques in terms of working with the players has been excellent.
'Our former player Thomas Hitzlsperger came over from Germany to see us for a few days and he said he still keeps in touch with Steve and his advice because he feels he is in as good a shape as he has ever been in.
'The players were in good shape for the four games in eight days over the festive season.'
O'Leary added: 'It was about what food they should eat, what they should do after the games to replenish their energy in terms of eating properly and eating certain food.
'Even in the dressing room after the games, Steve makes them eat. You might not after a football match be wanting to eat a wholemeal chicken sandwich or having a certain drink but he makes them do that.
'At the end of the day, you then hope when they go away from the football, some of what Steve does with them sinks in as well.
'We have got the lads operating at good fitness levels here. They have got to be fit with the way we try to play. That's all down to Steve.
'Our training is demanding and I think that came through in the games for us when they were all close together.'