More than two decades on and John Hughes can still detail the fine margins between success and failure. One of the Celtic players who lined up against Rangers during their nine- -in -a-row run, he insists the Parkhead side would have denied their rivals that glory had it not been for Andy Goram.
The closest they came was in season 1995-96, when they lost just one league game. It just happened to be to Rangers.
“Andy Goram, pictured, was outstanding and the best keeper for me. The reason Tommy [who had three stabs at it between 94-97] never won the league was Andy Goram. Now Rangers have Allan McGregor and he was outstanding at Parkhead [in the most recent Old Firm match]. Some of the saves he makes, as well as the penalty. The big players do something special in the big games.
“In the nineties, I am sure we would have won the league if it wasn’t for Goram. It is that fine line between winning and losing.”
But with Fraser Forster pulling off his own heroics in the preceding head to head, and the calibre of the current keepers described as 50/50, the outcome of this race to nine in a row is too close to call, according to Hughes.
“When I was at Celtic we lost to Rangers once in the league and we still didn’t win it [95-96], so it is all about fine margins.
“There is pressure at the Old Firm. It can either empower you or it can drag you under.
“A lot of boys can’t handle it. Rangers had guys like Goram, Gough, Gascoigne, Laudrup and McCoist – they were winners.”
But while the topic of making it to nine in a row might not be a discussion point in the Rangers or Celtic dressing rooms, Hughes insists it will be playing on players’ and managers’ minds.
“You don’t talk about how good they are in the dressing room or trying to stop them winning nine in a row. But when you were travelling or in the hotel you would speak about it. I travelled with Gordon Marshall and Jackie McNamara and we were all well aware about how important it was to stop Rangers making history.”
In the nineties, Celtic came up short, although a record-breaking ten in a row was ultimately what denied the Ibrox club. Hughes hopes Rangers are found wanting this time.
“With my connections I still want Celtic to win it and get nine in a row.
“I like Lenny but you have to admire the job Steven Gerrard has done at Rangers.
“Rangers will know full well what Celtic are trying to do. Like us in the nineties, it will be there in the back of the mind. They will play things down but the match at Celtic Park was a must win for them and they have done that.
“Gerrard has been a huge factor in the Rangers revival. Steven has a level and he is trying to drag his players up there with him. But I think Lenny has embraced the challenge of Rangers.”
That is why the champions are ten points better off than the same stage last year and still looking to strengthen this month. They have upped the ante but, with so much at stake, so too have Rangers.
John Hughes was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.