THERE has been a theory that Celtic’s comfortable passage to the William Hill Scottish Cup final was a significant feather in Neil Lennon’s cap.

Ditto that win over Rangers a few weeks back.

And yet what is forgotten about in the midst of Lennon’s job audition is that the most testing days of his appointment came in his first few days. With the current vantage point of a lead so significant at the top of the table that the title could be secured this weekend depending on results and just one game away from a unique Treble Treble, the picture looks weighted in Lennon’s favour.

But the idea that it has been straightforward is a bit of a misnomer.

Brendan Rodgers did the groundwork, of course he did. And while the resentment around his departure continues to linger like stale fag smoke, it is worth remembering the circumstances of his exit and how easy it would have been for things to fall apart.

The day that Lennon was brought into the Number Seven restaurant and unveiled as the caretaker manager, he had a couple of hours to change out the suit and get himself to Tynecastle for his first game in charge. He met the team, some for the first time, at their hotel base before travelling through to Edinburgh.

Celtic had already lost to Hearts in Gorgie this season – indeed, of their last three visits two had ended in defeat – on the night Lennon walked back into the dug-out. That win and the win that followed at Easter Road four days later in the Scottish Cup were monumental for Celtic.

In weeks to come when there will be the inevitable look at where the league was won, this will be the week pinpointed as the most significant.

And if anything sums up the difference between Lennon and Rodgers, one only has to take a look at their pitchside attire; one in a designer suit and soft Italian shoes, the other in tracksuit, bit of snuff in the pocket. One was pristine in decorum and pitch-side behaviour, the other criticised for a reluctance to bite his tongue.

In all the tense moments and big wins of Rodgers’ regime, it is difficult to recall a moment when he was so utterly lost in the moment as Lennon was earlier this month at Dens Park.

But the greatest irony of all around the apparent unpopularity of a Lennon appointment is that his Celtic credentials are authentic. Rodgers was an outstanding Celtic manager. Not even the most vitriolic of his detractors could deny him that. But he is also ambitious and a careerist who never hid a desire to return to England. In the real world there is no shame in that; it is the idea that his affiliation was presented as something other than that which lies at the root of many Celtic fans ire.

It is, though, difficult not to feel that Rodgers' profile has made it unfairly difficult for Lennon to walk back into the dugout. A few weeks back a BBC reporter conducted a Twitter poll to canvas the support for Lennon getting the Celtic job on a full-time basis. The numbers were significant in that the majority who responded wanted Celtic to broaden their net; those figures changed again in the aftermath of last Sunday’s win.

Which suggests that Rodgers gave the Celtic support something other than just success. He sold an idea of being big time, of making the club push the boat out, of propelling the club towards another level.

His box-office appeal was confirmed with 13,000 supporters turning out to welcome him into the club on a balmy June evening.

Lennon, harshly, is been seen as a cheap option. Celtic fans love to bleat and moan about a parsimonious board, even when ample evidence is presented to the contrary.

Lennon joked last week that he has felt these past few months as though he is driving another man’s prestige car and trying not to scratch the paintwork. It wasn’t just an insight into the odd position he has found himself since assuming the role, but maybe also an indication of his own sense of fragility when stood next to the A-lister for comparison. Indeed, that first press conference he joked that the managerial office he had inherited from Rodgers’ required the use of binoculars to see from one end to the other, such was its sumptuous surrounds – all of which came about at the behest of his predecessor.

And yet, Lennon has enjoyed Hollywood results of his own. His win over Barcelona as the club celebrated its 125th year anniversary remains an iconic moment and he has barely put a foot wrong as he has walked a delicate line under trying circumstances these past few months.

His past European displays also suggest a willingness and appreciation of having to bend in order to bridge the gap, whereas Rodgers frequently baulked at the idea of having to compromise to take a pragmatic approach.

If Rangers fail to beat Hearts this afternoon and Celtic win at Easter Road, he has finished the first job he was brought into do.

That he deserves the chance now to do it permanently is not in question.

THE news that UEFA are to create a pathway into the Champions League for teams who have "great historical importance to football" caused a bit of excitement this week.

But let’s be frank. UEFA don’t give a monkey’s about teams like Celtic and that golden star on their shirt. This is about money, sponsors and ensuring that there are as many teams in there as possible so TV companies will continue to fall over themselves and pay big bucks for the rights to broadcast games.

Therefore when it comes to winning a golden wild card entry that would excuse the treacherous trips to Kazakhstan and the gruelling eight-game knockout phase, you can bet your bottom dollar that those invites are going to the heavyweights.

Manchester United don’t qualify by virtue of their league position? AC Milan? These are the guys whom UEFA will be opening the back door to and ushering in. The money flow must not be in danger of being derailed.

And speaking of Manchester United, it would be interesting to know just how hard they tried to pursue Mauricio Pochettino. On a wage bill that is less than half Manchester City’s £360m a year, Spurs were deserving of their progress into the semi-finals of the Champions League this week in a game which was as emotionally extreme as it could possibly get.

But in the same way that that there is an inevitability about other teams circulating and cherry picking the Spurs squad, the same surely applies to the affable Pochettino who is Europe’s hottest managerial ticket at the minute.