THIS evening, the doors of the national stadium will be thrown open to the new batch of talent from Celtic and Aberdeen. The venue might well be different, but if both sets of players can recreate the excitement of 16 years ago at Pittodrie, the last time the two contested the youth cup final, those curious for a glimpse of the future are in for a treat.

It is a match recalled fondly by the men from the Granite City, one which confirmed their utter domination over the Old Firm during their heyday and one which Sir Alex Ferguson penned in his autobiography as ''of a frightening standard''.

Some were to achieve greater success, most notably Joe Miller, Paul Wright, and David Robertson of the young Dons, and Derek Whyte of Celtic, while others simply faded from the scene, unable to recover from the stomach-churning rollercoaster of a match that ended 5-3 in favour of Aberdeen, who recovered in quite astonishing fashion from a three-goal deficit.

While wishing good fortune to the latest crop of kids for fame, Whyte, now in the minority as a member of the old guard in the North-East, was struck by a sudden spurt of nostalgia, recounting his formative years at Parkhead when an adult head on 16-year-old shoulders captured the imagination of the supporters and intrigued his employers.

''It was brilliant but at the same time it was daunting. In fact, to this day it remains one of the best games I have been involved in, although I still don't know how we managed to lose.''

A surprise appearance by a furious Alex Ferguson in the home dressing room was instrumental in the fightback, but where Aberdeen were the force to be reckoned with in the mid-1980s, the roles are reversed on this occasion.

Martin O'Neill remains on course to complete the Scottish grand slam in his inaugural season north of the Border and he, like the now Sir Alex, are cut from a similar cloth, to the extent that the Irishman is installed as favourite to succeed the soon- to-be-retired Manchester United mentor.

O'Neill is expected to attend the under-18 jamboree, but while Celtic have had it all their own way for much of the senior campaign, Whyte believes the current crop at Pittodrie can evoke the spirit of 85.

Darren Mackie, Kevin McNaughton, and Ross O'Donoghue have all displayed sufficient skill to merit inclusion in Ebbe Skovdahl's youthful top team this season and the trio will be pivotal to the success of Drew Jarvie's under-18s.

''It will be good for those players to experience Hampden but it says much for the way football has changed that already they have first-team experience. Clubs like Aberdeen cannot afford to buy players and that's why the manager has placed such a heavy emphasis on youth,'' he said.

''That's not to say they haven't impressed. Ross made his debut against St Johntone last weekend and almost set up a goal with his first touch. It is encouraging to see, and their emergence bodes well for the future, but the main thing is that they go out and enjoy the cup final.''

Enjoyment was the main reason the tournament was formed back in 1984, when a Celtic side including Peter Grant triumphed 2-0 in a minors' Old Firm derby. The Parkhead side have won the tournament six times since its inception and their last victory, two years ago, was gleaned with the services of the likes of Mark Burchill, Stephen Crainey, and Colin Healy, who have all since progressed to first-team favour, with varying degrees of success.

The 1985 final, though, remains unrivalled. Having been enticed to Pittodrie by the presentation of the Scottish premier division, the 6000 supporters were subsequently enthralled by the unbridled enthusiasm of 22 players who had previously been members of - and not subjected to - such a densely populated stadium.

Among the young whipper-snappers on show, a wide-eyed Robertson gawped as the opening 45 minutes disappeared as quickly as the home fans' sense of celebration, with Celtic seeking to play the role of party pooper by snatching a two-goal advantage before the interval.

It was at this juncture that the 16-year-old discovered exactly what was expected of him and his contemporaries as a member of a championship-winning team.

''It was the most nervous I had ever been before a game because so many people came out to see the first team collect the league trophy and see the players who would be the future John Hewitts and Eric Blacks. I still cannot forget the half-time pasting we took. I didn't have too many dealings with Alex Ferguson back then, except to sign S-forms and so on, but he came into the dressing room and went right through every one of us.

''I was only a boy at the time but I think he used every expletive imaginable. The crux of his anger was that a lot of people had turned up to see us and he was determined that we would not let them down.''

Indeed they did not, and Robertson, who went on to enjoy great success in the Dons first team before winning a move to Rangers, still regards the match as one of the most memorable of a distinguished career, one ended cruelly and prematurely be knee damage sustained during an ill-fated spell with Leeds United.

Yet victory seemed at best improbable when Sandy Fraser doubled his tally to put Celtic three ahead moments after the restart. Resolve, however, has been the trademark of Ferguson's success through the years and the two-minute tirade had the desired effect when the tide turned dramatically. Jocky Lawrence, Paul Wright, and Joe Miller contrived to restore equality in regulation time, while the lesser known of the three performed the unthinkable during the extra period, with Stevie Gray adding sheen.

''When Alex came back in afterwards, all he said was that we got what we deserved from the game. It was something else.''

The head youth coach at Parkhead, Willie McStay, has been heartened to hear that he will have his full quota of players available despite many making the step to senior level at season's end.

Shaun Maloney, Mark Fotheringham, and John Kennedy have all been exposed to O'Neill's elite of late but the manager left a message with McStay informing him that he can take his pick of the abundant talent.

''I only just got the message and, while it is a relief, I get paid to provide players for the first team, not to win youth cups, although that itself suggests we are on the right road.

''This is the ideal chance to look at those players who thrive in the big arena. For many it will be their first experience of Hampden and it will give us an indication of how they can cope.''

There may well be another Whyte, Robertson, or Miller waiting to be unearthed, while for some the youth cup final could prove the highlight of their careers. Regardless of their destiny in the game, though, none will forget the day they graced the field of dreams.