It is just over 20 years since Mark Roberts, then a 17-year-old trainee, made his first league start for Kilmarnock at Ibrox and scored in a 2-1 win over a Rangers side fresh from winning a domestic treble and coming so close to reaching the inaugural Champions League final.
As he prepares for the most high-profile encounter of his managerial career, the contrasts could barely be more obvious for the Ayr United player-coach. Back then, Rangers, all-powerful at home and intent on conquering Europe, boasted an XI of established internationalists such as Richard Gough, Gary Stevens, Alexei Mikhailitchenko and Mark Hateley as well as new £4m signing Duncan Ferguson.
How their circumstances have altered since then. The current Ibrox squad seems stronger than that which huffed and puffed its way to the third division title last season, but it remains light years away from that nine-in-a-row select with the mood of the supporters considerably less triumphant, too.
Life is considerably different for Roberts now as well. The arrival of his first child, Aaron, just 13 weeks ago and the ensuing mix of sleepless nights and life-affirming joy has given him a whole new perspective as he winds down a playing career that has delivered much itself.
Yet as the 37-year-old reflects on the morning the late Tommy Burns told him he would be getting his big chance on the south side of Glasgow, he can draw upon a distinct thread between that experience and what he will be asking his own players to achieve tomorrow. He has a number of teenagers in his squad, such as Alan Forrest - younger brother of Celtic winger James - Robbie Crawford, Mark Shankland and Jackson Longridge, who will be dreaming of getting their opportunity to shine. He vividly recalls the mentality he possessed as a boy, though, and intends to pass that on when he gathers his players together ahead of tomorrow's game.
"I feel like a different person from then," chortled Roberts. "I have had two lives since. I can hardly remember what I was doing two weeks ago because of that wean of mine, never mind 20 years ago.
"We have some guys who are around the same age as I was and the thing I really remember is that I went into the game with no fear at all. We trained at Rugby Park that morning and Tam Burns told me I was playing before we headed off. I was just so excited and that's the way I want my players to be. They should have no fear and my team talk will be based on them not feeling inferior in any way.
"I was a YTS player at that time and on £29.50- a-week. Duncan Ferguson was a £4m player and they had Gough, Stevens and Hateley in the team. I remember scoring with a diving header and it was pandemonium after that. Rangers equalised and Bobby Williamson popped up deep into injury-time with a tap-in from about a centimetre. It is just a different world from now."
Ayr's unbeaten start to their SPFL League 1 campaign was tarnished when losing 5-1 against Dunfermline Athletic last Saturday, but Roberts insists the blood-and-thunder atmosphere of Somerset Park should inject a certain fire into the bellies into his men. "This is some place when it is full and rocking and there's nowhere like it now," he said. "Look at the Premier League grounds. They are all soulless now because they are never full."
Roberts insists he does not want to field himself but admits the temptation to place faith in old heads is strong. "I really don't want to play, but Sunday's going to be about trying to keep the ball and I have a knack of being able to do that," said Roberts. "It is important we have experience, but we need the young guys to give us the energy that us old buggers don't have any longer. It's hard."
Whether Roberts' responsibilities as a father sap his strength remain to be seen, but they make the ups-and-downs of life in football easier to handle. "Back then, I might have had a couple of vodkas. Now, I'm feeding the wean and getting peed on."