AS a friend, admirer and countryman of Brendan Rodgers, there is no chance, publicly at least, of Neil Lennon ever being at all critical of either his predecessor as Celtic manager or his methods.

Yet, Lennon’s explanation of why his team have gone on a record-equalling five game unbeaten run away from home in Europe this season is hardly an endorsement of the contentious approach that Rodgers took on the road in continental competition.

His fellow Northern Irishman oversaw some excellent performances and savoured some noteworthy successes in both the Champions League and Europa League during his time in Glasgow.

But the heavy and humiliating defeats they suffered against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Salzburg and Zenit St Petersburg led to repeated accusations that his tactics abroad were needlessly idealistic and hopelessly naïve.

Lennon hasn’t come up against opposition of that sort of quality in his second stint in the dugout at Parkhead so far. But the showings against Cluj in Romania, AIK in Stockholm and Rennes in France on Thursday evening have impressed all the same.

The change in philosophy has been noticeable; he is clearly more concerned with getting a result than producing attractive football and that is having a definite effect.

“We work a lot, John Kennedy particularly, on the tactical side of things and the shape of the team,” said Lennon. “It’s a case of us just doing what we normally do, but I also want us to be a bit more pragmatic away from home at times. Instead of encouraging the opposition, we need to manage the game and we’ve been doing that very well.

“I told the players at half-time on Thursday ‘you’re playing well, but are you going to play well and lose or are we going to change this mentality?’ It’s unacceptable to have played well, but still be getting on that plane with a defeat.

“Personally, I thought we’d played well in that first half but, in the final third, we were a little impatient or our final ball was lacking once we’d worked it into good areas. We got a really good reaction in the second half and the only disappointment is we didn’t win because we more than matched Rennes, who are a very good side.

“I was very pleased with the overall performance and the balance of the team; there were no real periods of concerted pressure from Rennes. We had to deal with a few set plays, but we expected that going into the game anyway. I’m delighted with the result and the display.”

Lennon endured some costly losses in Europe in his first couple of seasons as Celtic manager. But he recovered and went on to enjoy some outstanding results. He believes his current side is far more advanced than the one he inherited back in 2010 and better placed to deliver European success.

“It was a question of building that team, but this team is already more rounded and polished,” he said. “It’s not a question of being in this to build. We’re in this now to compete and that’s the difference between the two teams.

“We’re not getting carried away, but they’ve got belief in themselves and played really well. A lot of people would have thought we’d have lost (against Rennes) but we felt we could cause them problems and they wouldn’t play through us too much.

“From cross balls they are a threat and particularly from the wing backs and they had a good midfield but our midfield really took the game to them at every opportunity. Off the back of winning at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago, it’s given them a huge boost and is a good template of the way to play away from home.”

Lennon continued: “Experience is important when you go away in Europe; your Scott Browns, Callum McGregors and James Forrests. Plus you also have to remember that Boli Bolingoli and Hatem Elhamed have played at this level before with their previous clubs. Christopher Jullien is really starting to blossom.

“We also have goals in us. We work really hard to create those chances and we’re now scoring away from home in nearly every game, which is very important.

“I thought the two boys in midfield were outstanding; they gave us a great platform. McGregor, inset, had an outstanding game in terms of winning the ball back, but also in retaining it and giving us forward momentum. He and Scott Brown are pivotal in the way we want to play.”

Angelo Alessio, the Italian who replaced Steve Clarke at Kilmarnock manager in the summer, has had the same sort of turbulent start to his reign in Ayrshire that Lennon did when he took over at Celtic.

But the man whose last visit to Parkhead came back in 2013 when he was assistant manager of the Juventus team that won the first leg of a Champions League last 16 tie 3-0 has enjoyed a better time of late. His side has kept clean sheets in their last four matches and will be hopeful of doing the same in the Ladbrokes Premiership match in the East End tomorrow.

Lennon despairs of the eagerness to write off and even sack managers in the modern game. He always suspected his counterpart would come good given time and is expecting a difficult afternoon.

“Angelo had huge shoes to fill in terms of what Steve did at Kilmarnock,” he said. “Now he is seeing the results starting to blossom for him and we always have a difficult game against Kilmarnock. There is a good mentality there and we will have to play well to win.’

“Public perception is the way it is now. But this guy has a good pedigree. For me, Billy Bowie is a very shrewd guy. The appointment of Clarky was a masterstroke and this guy could turn out to be the same. There is always knee jerk reactions in football now. Managers are under pressure after three or four games. It is just crazy. It just flips like that and all of a sudden everything is rosey again. That’s not real.”