This week Celtic and Rangers are both playing European football beyond Christmas for the first time since 2008.
Back then, the Hoops went out to Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
But the Light Blues went all the way in the UEFA Cup to reach the Final, which they lost to Dick Advocaat’s Zenit St Petersburg at the City of Manchester Stadium.
The run-in to the campaign was marred by controversy and in-fighting as Walter Smith’s side faced a backlog of fixtures.
Around Ibrox circles, it was felt the SPL and SFA didn’t do enough to give Rangers a longer extension to the campaign.
With Gordon Strachan’s squad allowed to fully focus on the league campaign, they overturned a healthy Rangers lead, winning the final two Old Firm clashes of the season, and clinching the title on the last day of the season with a 1-0 victory at Dundee United.
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink played a huge part in that success.
He scored one of the winning goals against Rangers and also the clincher at Tannadice.
Depending on how things go in the next three or four weeks, there could end up being similarities this season as to how it was 12 years ago.
After his team’s dramatic dip in form, Steven Gerrard will certainly hope so!
Vennegoor of Hesselink, now 41, reckons that would be great for Scottish football.
The Dutchman told The Sunday Post: “I have very fond memories of the 2007-08 season.
“It was a battle from start to finish, and we were fighting on the European stage and in the League.
“Barcelona knocked us out of the Champions League – but we gave them a fright!
“I scored at Parkhead to put us 1-0 in front against a team that contained the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Deco, Henry and Ronaldinho.
“So that tells you of the sort of quality we were up against.
“They fought back to win 3-2, with both Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry getting on the scoresheet.
“Rangers were getting through in the UEFA Cup round by round, and had a nice lead in the League.
“Walter Smith’s team were in really good form and, points wise, we had some catching up to do.
“They were the clear favourites. But beating them twice at Parkhead was vital and I got one of the winning goals in the last minute.
“That gave us tremendous belief.
“We kept going and eventually won it that night at Tannadice.
“It was also the week that Tommy Burns passed away. He had been ill for a while but we never forgot about him.
“It felt as though he was always with us, and we made sure the title win was dedicated to him.
“He was a great Celtic man and a fantastic person.
“We won the league on a Thursday night because the SPL had extended the campaign by a few days. I loved the moment, and had a party with my team-mates.
“I couldn’t enjoy it too much, however, as I had to report to the Dutch national team training camp the next morning for preparations for the Euro 2008 Finals.
“I was on the 9am flight to Amsterdam. Marco van Basten was the manager and I didn’t want to be late!
“People often ask me if being out of Europe helped us that season, and it probably didn’t do us any harm.
“It allowed us to focus, sure, but we would also have preferred to still have been in the Champions League for longer.
“It will be the same story for the current players and management at both Old Firm clubs.
“Will Celtic want to beat FC Copenhagen and will Rangers want to beat Braga? Of course they will, for sure.
“To be successful in Europe brings prestige to the club, brings financial rewards and also increases the focus on the other teams in the country.
“We felt that here in Holland last season when Ajax looked as though they were going all the way to the Champions League Final, only to fall at the semi-final stage to Tottenham’s late fightback.
“But look at the focus it brought to their players, and some of the transfer fees that were involved when they moved to clubs such as Barcelona and Juventus.
“Victories in Europe bring nice attention, and it will make more clubs look at Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos.
“Both are dangerous strikers and very good goalscorers. They can be valued at very high prices in the market.
“So we will see what happens in the League and in the Europa League.
“One thing for sure is that it is going to be very interesting.
“But Rangers have slipped up in recent weeks and it now looks as though Celtic are clear favourites.”
Neil Lennon joined Strachan’s coaching staff in 2008, so he has lived through being the team that is chasing the leaders.
That’s why, even with such a healthy points gap just now, he will never take nine-in-a-row for granted.
Vennegoor of Hesselink – now chief scout at PSV Eindhoven – totally gets that.
“Neil has been there, done it and worn the T-shirt,” he said.
“He will now know how to handle this run-in. It’s the same for the likes of Scott Brown and James Forrest.
“But Rangers can’t be ruled out, as was the case with us in 2008.
“We knew we still had to play Rangers twice and that always gave us hope. That must be the way Steven Gerrard and the Rangers players are looking at the current scenario.
“However, I do fancy Celtic to win it. It just seems as though they are on the right road and playing some really good football. They are blowing teams away.
“They face a tough game at Aberdeen, but they will go into it full of confidence.
“Going to a strike partnership of Edouard and Leigh Griffiths has worked wonderfully well.
“I had a really enjoyable partnership with Scott McDonald, and we scored more than 50 goals between us in 2007-08.
“Playing two strikers up top is not something we see very often in the modern game.
“The decision to go with Odsonne and Leigh could ultimately prove to be a deciding factor, in a positive way, as to what happens for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s a refreshing change, and good on Neil for trying it and sticking with it.”
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