BRENDAN Rodgers will, it is safe to assume, get a fairly hostile reception as he makes his way to the Celtic dugout shortly before the game against Rangers gets underway at Ibrox early this afternoon.

It is the first time, either as a fan or as the manager of the Parkhead club, that Rodgers has stepped foot inside the Govan ground and he is certain to be greeted with heckling and abuse by the home supporters.

Yet, a man who is the veteran of many Swansea v Cardiff City and Liverpool v Everton derbies will be undeterred by the animosity which is aimed in his direction regardless of how vitriolic it gets.

A meeting with a terminally ill Rangers supporter during a visit to a hospice in his native Northern Ireland on Christmas Day drove home to him that such sporting rivalries, no matter how bitter, are insignificant in comparison with other weightier matters in life.

“It will be as new experience and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It should be a great atmosphere and a great intensity in the game. And I’m sure I’ll get a nice welcome.

“But I was in the hospice talking to an old guy called Billy, bless him, who is from the Monkstown Rangers Supporters Club and we had a great chat about the game. He was keen to meet me and I was keen to meet him.

“I was sat at his bedside and we had a real good chat, a bit of banter. Billy is a good guy. He wanted a photograph so if he got out he could take it to the Rangers Supporters’ Club on Boxing Day. We had a cuddle.

“That is what it’s about. It put the game in perspective. Whatever it is, it’s about life now. So I’ll look forward to it on Saturday. These are great games.”

Rodgers appreciates the religious and historical aspects of the Old Firm rivalry make it different to any he has been involved with previously in his managerial career. Nevertheless, he believes his past experiences will have prepared him for this afternoon’s meeting.

“I had a Swansea-Cardiff game and those are real old school derbies,” he said. “There is lots of history between those two cities. The Goodison one is very intense. The game goes very quickly and obviously there’s big energy in them.

“We went away to Cardiff in my first season at Swansea when we were both trying to get into the Premier League. Swansea hadn’t won there for a few years. We played very well and won 1-0 and could’ve had a few more goals.

“The rivalry between the cities of Swansea and Cardiff really is intense. I think our game was a 1pm kick-off, but the buses were leaving from Swansea at 9am. It was to ensure that everyone got there safe.

“They’re always intense occasions, full of passion. Both sets of supporters are well up for it and it’s the pride you’re playing for. Goodison, Old Trafford, they’re big atmospheres and you’re up against massive rivals."

Rodgers, whose Celtic side ran out 5-1 winners over Rangers at Parkhead in September in the Ladbrokes Premiership and then defeated their city rivals 1-0 at Hampden in October, feels his charges have shown they have the temperament to handle the big occasion.

Having qualified for the Champions League, drawn three of their group games, lifted the League Cup, stormed 16 points clear at the head of the Ladbrokes Premiership and gone undefeated in 23 domestic fixtures, it is hard to argue.

“The idea is that you stay as calm as you possibly can, that you control your feelings, that you try and find a solution for the pressures of the game," he said.

“Thankfully, for us, we’ve already this season played in a number of what would be deemed real pressure games, where we’ve needed to perform and get results. Hopefully, we’ve shown that sort of mentality in these type of games, that we can cope with them.

“I’ve never been to Ibrox before, like I said, although I’ve seen it and watched it many times before on the telly. I’m sure the welcome won’t be as nice as when we come to Parkhead, but so be it. We’ll deal with it.”

Rodgers continued: “If you reel off the moments of pressure we’ve had this season – the League Cup final when we got through in the end, the Rangers game, the first one at Celtic Park in four years, the semi-final game - these are all games where we have shown good composure and kept calm.

“When we were 2-0 down away at Motherwell there was pressure. You have to stay calm and depressurise the situation because no-one, whatever line of work it is, no-one works well under big pressure.”

Many of the key players in the current Celtic team, including Moussa Dembele, Mikael Lustig and Erik Sviatchenko, are foreign, but Rodgers is confident they all appreciate the significance of doing well against Rangers.

“You learn very quickly what it means because you have to,” he said. “When you bring a player in, part of their induction is understanding the fabric of the club and understanding what it means to be a Celtic player and what it means to represent the club as a player and a staff member.

“If you didn’t know so much about it before you came in, you certainly know when you get in. Both teams have had non-Scottish players who went on to become legends for the club so very quickly you understand what it means. Celtic will for sure have players who are multi-national, but they will know what it means.”