JASON Cummings has the X Factor that can give Rangers the edge in the Old Firm game

- in exactly the same way that Leigh Griffiths has ensured Celtic have been on song in the fixture in the past few years.

That was the prediction today from the youth coach who worked with both players, as well as a raft of other Scotland internationalists over the years, as they came through the ranks at Hutchison Vale.

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Tam Smith, who has been involved with the renowned Edinburgh club for the last 32 years, was unsurprised to see famous alumni Cummings take full advantage of a rare first team start for Rangers at the weekend.

The 22-year-old had been on the bench since the William Hill Scottish Cup last 16 match against Ayr United at Somerset Park last month even though he netted the goal of the round in a 6-1 victory.

Yet, the Nottingham Forest loan player netted a hat-trick – the first of his professional career – in an emphatic 4-1 win over Falkirk at Ibrox on Sunday to ensure his side booked a semi-final place against Celtic.

Cummings is now hoping that Graeme Murty will give him the nod to start in the Ladbrokes Premiership meeting with Brendan Rodgers’s team this Sunday following his heroics up front.

And Smith believes the larger-than-life character won’t be fazed by the enormity of the occasion or the intensity of the atmosphere created by over 50,000 passionate fans - thanks to the solid grounding he received in the game at Hutchison Vale.

Griffiths, who has just returned to training having been sidelined with a recurrence of a calf injury, has been a key player for the Scottish champions in the Glasgow derby and scored at Ibrox in a 2-0 win for his side back in September.

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Cummings may not start this weekend, but Smith believes that Murty, who only gave him a run-out due to an injury to Jamie Murphy, will be rewarded if he retains him in his forward line.

“I always think that Celtic are less of a team without Leigh,” he said. “I don’t think they have that X Factor that they do when he is in the side. Jason has got that same X Factor as Leigh. He is unconventional while fitting into a system.

“When Leigh was at Hutchison Vale he just wanted to score goals all the time and he could do that from anywhere on the pitch, including his head as well. He had phenomenal accuracy. Sometimes he didn’t even look at the goals. He had a hairline temperament, but he never gave anything less than 100 per cent.

“They are both left peggers, but Jason is different to Leigh. He doesn’t have blinding pace, but he has got a good change of pace, has great strength on the ball and is a good link-up player. He is a good team player."

Smith added: “Graeme Murty said that he doesn’t lack self-belief and you could see that on Sunday when he played wide left. But he used to play wide left for Hutchison Vale and moved to centre forward.

"I don’t think he’ll be scared by the occasion if he plays on Sunday. He’ll treat it like any other game, but his focus will be even greater. But I always think he’s far better when he starts a game. He doesn’t like being a sub.

Read more: Graeme Murty: Jason Holt was unfortunate to miss out once again for Rangers on Sunday

"It is funny how Kenny Miller, who is nearing the end of his career, and Jason Cummings, who is at the start of his are both at Rangers having started their careers at Hutchison Vale.

“What is good is that Leigh and Jason are both extraordinary characters. They were both in the pro-youth system, but they didn’t fit in. Their characters were too strong to be repressed. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The failure of many of Scotland’s most talented kids to make the step up into senior football has been a source of great bewilderment and frustration to those who care about the health of our national game in recent years.

Yet, Smith believes the success of Cummings, Griffiths and many others to emerge from Hutchison Vale shows that allowing kids to just enjoy playing their football instead of forcing them to conform to a rigid system and satisfy pre-set targets in the pro-youth set-up.

“It’s great to see Jason doing so well,” he said. “He’s another free spirit. I think the pro-youth process wipes the smiles off a lot of kids’ faces. It suppresses their natural Scottishness.

"I was brought up in the same housing scheme as Gordon Strachan. I never saw anybody coaching him.

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“As Gordon says, if there was an Olympic sport for having the last word Scotland would win the gold medal every four years. These boys aren’t being cheeky and disrespectful they are just being normal kids. We have had our fair share!

“Jason was here from when he was six. He went into the Hearts pro-youth set-up. He came out of that. I saw him walking across Saughton with his pal Connor McGregor, whose brother Lee is the boxer, one day. I said to him: ‘Just come back to Hutchy Vale and get stuck in’. That was what he did.

“He had left school and he was doing gardening jobs to earn some money. He was scoring three, four, five goals a game. It was too easy for him. But he was playing with his mates and enjoying it. I got in touch with James McDonaugh at Hibs. I told him: ‘He’ll be in your first team in 18 months’. I was wrong. He did it in nine months.

“It is a cliché I suppose, but he plays with a smile on his face. He is a character. The game is devoid of them. Everybody takes their own path. We’re in our wee corner and are excluded from the system. They are calling it Project Brave. I would say it’s more like Project Grave."