THE Rangers side that will take to the field at Ibrox tomorrow is, no disrespect to Ryan Jack, Alfredo Morelos or James Tavernier, nowhere near the same quality as those Pierre van Hooijdonk came up against during his years leading the line for Celtic.

He played at Parkhead at a time when their Glasgow rivals were lavishing millions of pounds on renowned international stars like Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup and his side were unable to wrest the Scottish title from their grasp due to that superior spending power.

The Govan’s club’s well-documented financial meltdown, coupled with the vast wages now on offer to players down in England and elsewhere in Europe, mean they are no longer able to operate at the same rarefied level in the transfer market.

Yet, Van Hooijdonk still believes there is one important similarity between Steven Gerrard’s team and Walter Smith’s revered sides that can help them get a result – an exceptional goalkeeper.

The Dutch striker and his Celtic team mates frequently performed brilliantly in Old Firm games during the 1990s only to be denied victory by the outstanding play of Rangers great Andy Goram.

Van Hooijdonk feels Allan McGregor, who has been one of the form players in the country this season along with Ryan Christie, James Forrest and Morelos, is just as good as his illustrious predecessor and can be every bit as important for his side this afternoon.

“We have seen a lot of stupid mistakes from goalkeepers cost teams in big games all across Europe lately even when they have performed well,” he said. “Loris Karius in the Champions League is the best example. When you have got a good player in that position it is definitely a benefit.

“Celtic have been the best team in Scotland for a long time and they will once again be favourites to win again this weekend. But having a keeper of the standard of McGregor definitely helps Rangers. He is the sort of player who always seems to be at his best in big games. He can be the difference. Andy was exactly the same.”

He certainly was. Goram’s most memorable save in an Old Firm game, possibly ever, came from a Van Hooijdonk shot in the classic 3-3 draw at Ibrox in 1995. He denied the forward from point blank range in the second-half when the scoreline was 2-2. It is a moment he is still lauded for to this day.

However, the former Celtic striker takes an entirely different view of the incident – he argues it was one of his worst ever misses and reckons he made it simple for the Rangers keeper to palm his shot clear.

“I remember Andy’s save,” he said. “No disrespect to Andy, but I blame myself more for not scoring than I give him credit for the save. Rangers fans do the opposite, but I should have done better than hitting it straight in the middle of the goal.

“That is actually what happened. Normally, if you hit to the side, to the left or the right, then it will 100 per cent be a goal. I took a touch and hit it straight in the middle of the goal so I gave the goalkeeper a chance.

“Of course, at close range it’s still very hard to save it and Andy did. I will give some credit to him. But I was more angry at myself for not taking that opportunity. I have scored many goals and I have missed chances as well, but I haven’t missed many worse than that one.”

Van Hooijdonk partially atoned for his failure to bury that opportunity later in the game when he netted a sublime late equaliser that he rates as the one of best of a long, frequently controversial, but ultimately extremely successful professional career. “It was probably one of the best headers I scored,” he said. “Tosh McKinlay put in a cross and I leapt and put it in the bottom corner. It was a lesson to myself. It was how headers should be.

“We did well in that game. It changed every single minute. We were winning, then we were losing, then we came back. It was a very entertaining match.”

Still, the former Nottingham Forest, Benfica, Feyenoord and Fenerbahce forward also recognises just how costly his earlier miss proved to be in what was a tight title race. “We only lost one league game that season, but we still ended up finishing four points behind Rangers,” he said. “At that time, Celtic had a great side. It had everything that was needed. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough to win the title.”

Van Hooijdonk went on to sample some renowned fixtures across Europe, including Benfica v Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, Feyenoord v Ajax in the Netherlands and Fenerbahce v Galatasaray in Turkey, after leaving Scotland. He rates the Celtic game against Rangers as the most intimidating environment he played in.

"In a Celtic v Rangers game you understand what the people are shouting at you and the songs they are singing," he said. "In Turkey, I didn’t know. I heard the noise, but I didn't know what they were saying. If I started swearing at you in Dutch you wouldn’t get it. If I did the same in English you would be hurt.

"I heard some of the things the Rangers fans said to me. In away matches especially, that made the environment more violent."

Brendan Rodgers has a big decision to make tomorrow about who to play up front for Celtic against Rangers today. Odsonne Edouard, his record £9 million signing, made a massive impact after coming on against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Boxing Day. But the French striker has been out with an abductor injury.

If Rodgers decides to start with Edouard on the bench and persevere with Christie in attack, or even give Mikey Johnston, who scored a double against Dundee last Saturday, a chance Van Hooijdonk has some sage advice for them.

“It is very important that you use the intensity in a positive way,” he said. “As a player, if you get a chance to be a part of that game everybody will talk to you about the importance of it for days beforehand.

“Sometimes, you lose your discipline on the pitch. For example, a striker will start making silly tackles just to show everybody they are really up for it. You need to settle down.

“Okay, it’s a very important game. But you mustn’t get dragged away by the atmosphere. Then you could end up being sent off. In my opinion, it is always important that you don’t lose your head even if everyone around about you is going crazy. You have to stay calm and focus on what you are good at, playing football.”

Van Hooijdonk is hoping to show he hasn’t lost his eye for goal when he plays for the Rest of the World in the Star Sixes, a six-a-side tournament for legendary international footballers that is being held at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow next month.

“I have taken part in several six-a-side tournaments around the world,” he said. “Gaizka Mendieta is quite often there. I played with Robert Pires in Geneva. I play regularly with Ronald de Boer with the former Dutch internationals. It will be good catching up and coming back to Glasgow. I think I can still score goals.”

Star Sixes reunites the world’s greatest players in national team colours to renew old rivalries in six-a-side action. It will be held at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, from January 4 to 6. Tickets from £20/£10 at