THAT infamous defeat to Lincoln Red Imps in his opening competitive fixture in Gibraltar aside, Brendan Rodgers made an immediate impact as Celtic manager back in 2016.

He recovered from that embarrassing opening loss to secure a lucrative place in the group stages of Champions League – and then went undefeated in 47 games domestically.

His summer signings, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair, both excelled as the Parkhead club won what was at the time only the fourth treble in their history.

So, if the Parkhead club were to decide not to make Neil Lennon, who took over on an interim basis back in February after his countryman departed for Leicester City, their new manager there is every chance the man they opt for could flourish straight away.

It would, though, be a huge risk for the double treble winners, who are now just a few games away from completing a third consecutive clean sweep of domestic trophies after their win over Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final yesterday, to look elsewhere.

With Nine-In-A-Row up for grabs next season and Rangers - despite the fact they will, for the seventh year running, not win one of the three major competitions this term - much improved now is not the time to gamble on a new face who is unfamiliar with the unique demands of life in charge of an Old Firm club or even Scottish football.

Rodgers may have started his reign strongly, and continued in that vein for the next two-and-three-quarter years, but he took over in completely different circumstances. He was appointed, amid jubilant scenes at Celtic Park, in May. He had time to assess his squad, identify signing targets and work with his new charges on the training ground.

The man from Carnlough in Northern Ireland was also a lifelong Celtic supporter who understood their traditions and values and appreciated the scrutiny he would be under and the intense demands there would be on his shoulders.

The former Liverpool manager, too, was comfortable with being the public figurehead of a major club. That is not something that can be said of everyone who has occupied the dugout in both the East End of Glasgow and Govan in the past few years. Being able to cope with all of the hysteria is as key as being tactically aware or a good man manager.

If Celtic, who have been linked with some stellar names in recent weeks as a rumour mill has, predictably, gone into overdrive do go for another coach, he will have a matter of weeks to come in, familiarise himself with his new surroundings and prepare for the opening European qualifier.

He will, too, find the size of the task awaiting him will be colossal. Lennon has admitted that a major rebuilding job is required in the close season and he has started that process even though he is unsure whether he will be kept on to oversee it or not.

Having had Rodgers at the helm there are many Celtic supporters, despite their love of Lennon, who would like to see a sexier name brought in. There will, as is always the case, be no shortage of interest.

But Lennon is the smart choice for a multitude of reasons. He wants the job, has a proven track record both at home and abroad, positively revels in the spotlight and has, with the help of the club recruitment staff, unearthed a few gems in the transfer market as well.

He has, too, a strong relationship with both Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, and Dermot Desmond, the major shareholder. This season was blighted by internal politics as Rodgers grew frustrated at the restrictions on his spending.

Lennon has a tendency, sometimes through no fault of his own, but often due to his transgressions, to attract trouble. He has a fiery temperament and has long been a hate figure for opposition fans, not least of those of a Rangers persuasion. It is pushing it to say he would be a safe pair of hands. But he is older and wiser now. He is also a better manager after spells at Bolton and Hibernian.

It has been suggested that the 47-year-old needs to win the treble to secure the position for a second time. But if Celtic fail to overcome Hearts on May 25 he will still be the logical choice to take over.