IF you look hard enough, every goal that a team loses can be traced back so that some poor soul cops the blame. And for Celtic supporters at the moment, the trail seems to invariably be leading back to Jack Hendry.

The defender has come in for criticism in the early part of the season, with fingers being pointed at him for the part he has played in poor results or performances both at home and abroad. But the scapegoating of the former Partick Thistle, Wigan and Dundee man is not only counter-productive according to the player’s manager Brendan Rodgers, but fails to take into account the stage he has been thrust onto at such a precocious point in his career.

At 23, there are those that argue Hendry isn’t a kid anymore, but that fails to take into account his lack of big-game experience that is being laid bare seemingly on a weekly basis at the moment. And for all of those critics among the champions’ support who think Hendry simply isn’t cut out for the task at hand, Rodgers has news for them; he is here to stay.

The character that Hendry has shown in the face of the intense scrutiny and brutal criticism that comes with the territory of playing for such a massive club like Celtic has Rodgers convinced that his £1.2million signing is cut from the right cloth to succeed in the famous hoops.

“With Jack, in all fairness to him, I admire the fact that he never hides,” Rodgers said.

“He has been thrown into his career here at Celtic a lot sooner than I would have wanted. When I brought him in, it was to develop him and progress him. I wanted him to come in, be a support centre-half, and get a feel for a huge club like Celtic. I wanted to improve him in his training and develop him along that route.

“Instead, he’s had to come in and be thrown straight into it in a lot of big-pressure games.

“Yes, he has made mistakes. But he is a very honest boy and someone I’ll always support to be the best he can be.

“This is where you do a lot of your learning and development, and it’s ultimately where you’re measured, when all isn’t going so well. It’s all experiences.

“Since the summer, he’s been thrown into some big games and that is something that wasn’t really a part of the plan for him. However, he has never backed away from it. It is something which will hold him in really good stead for the rest of his career.

“Sometimes in the modern game, you get players that can remove themselves out of that situation and they are not available. He has never, ever done that – ever – whether it’s training [or matches]. That’s what tells you everything about the player.

“He is honest, he knows he can make mistakes but he’s learning in a tough school where wins are important. I’m pretty confident he will grow from this and show he’s a good player.”

At the other end of the scale in terms of his career is Celtic captain Scott Brown, who sat out the defeat to RB Salzburg on Thursday night and will miss this afternoon’s trip to face St Johnstone with a hamstring injury. As such a reliable presence in the heart of the Celtic midfield, it is perhaps when he is missing that his importance to the team is drawn more sharply into focus.

In the short term, Rodgers is confident that his men can muddle through without their figurehead, but he admits in the long-term, once the 33-year-old eventually hangs up his boots, Celtic may find his leadership to be irreplaceable.

“Scott’s a very important player for us,” he said. “In my time here, he’s been brilliant for me as a leader on the pitch. He’s a proper captain.

“He leads by example and off the pitch he’s different. When he crosses that line he’s a different character, he has a different mentality. He’s a figurehead for the team when he plays.

“We’ve won and lost games without Scott in the team but he’s a really important player for us. When the time comes that Scott either moves on or hangs up his boots, of course it will be difficult to replace him.

“He’s the type of player, especially the Scott Brown of the last two years who has matured and has a real tactical idea of the game, who’s a breath of fresh air.

“That’s irreplaceable, really. That type of player in the modern game is becoming even less. That real, competitive edge, a mix of new and old-school mentality.

“His courage and love of the football is something else. He wants it. He’s always available and takes the ball in any situation. That’s what we missed against Salzburg on Thursday night. Players that can play under that pressure and take the ball. He’s always a great example to the team in that regard.

“He has had a fantastic 10-odd years here and hopefully he’ll have even more.”

Rodgers is readying his team for a different approach from St Johnstone this afternoon from the last time the teams faced up to one another. Coming off the back of Celtic’s Europa League exertions, he believes that Tommy Wright may send his men out to be more aggressive in their pressing than they were when losing in the Betfred Cup to his side last month.

“They may not let us have the ball so much this time,” he said.

“Sometimes coming in off the back of a European game, they may come at us and play with greater intensity.

“But we need to focus on ourselves. We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re used to playing important games after European games.

“We have shown an ability to refocus and win our next game. We know it will be tough but if we play with the intensity that we did in the second half at Perth, it gives us a much better opportunity.”