IT'S the Gold Blend that every manager wants to create.

And for Neil Lennon it is about to be served up with a silver lining.

Having a good starting XI doesn't amount to hill of beans if you don't have plenty in reserve to back it up.

As many before him have discovered, players drop out through injury or suspension, while eventually others simply go past their sell- by date.

Lennon has not had to wake up and smell the coffee over that truism.

And, since the day he took over as manager of the Parkhead club four years ago next month, he has always been acutely aware of the need to deliver now, but also ensure he has one eye on the future.

This has allowed him to plan for any emergencies, but also to keep the door open to development for the kids on whom the club spends so much time and money.

When they do get their chance - as Liam Henderson did at Kilmarnock on Friday, where he made his first start in the 3-0 victory - it is essential they step into a settled and welcoming environment, populated by settled, senior professionals.

Men like Scott Brown and Friday's hat-trick hero, Kris Commons, fill that mentoring role perfectly.

For a team in transition, as Celtic certainly are, their influence this season has been invaluable.

Given that the average age of the starting XI is just under 25, 28-year-old Brown and 30-year-old Commons are certainly putting the senior into this service.

They must have looked at 17-year-old Henderson getting ready next to them in the Rugby Park dressing room and felt their knees creak just a little.

But the performance this experienced pair delivered not only belied the miles on the clock, but was a lesson to the new Bhoy and to everyone else in the side.

They are pulling the Hoops towards the finishing line in the SPFL title race, and need only help them grab another seven points to see title No.3 safely in the bag.

When that is secured - the home game against Ross County on March 29 now looks favourite - Lennon will look to give a number of those who have carried most of the burden this campaign some well-earned down-time, though he does accept that finding the off-switch to Brown's Duracell batteries might be a challenge.

The captain and leading scorer Commons have been and remain highly important parts of the Green Machine.

They serve as a tremendous example to those newer to the club of the standard of consistency which is required to be a first pick for Lennon.

Brown is leading by example, driving the side when they are not moving as they should - certainly the case in the first half at Rugby Park when mis-placed passes and lack of penetration allowed Killie to stay in the game.

Lennon said of that opening period: "We were a little bit slack. But you only have to tell them once and you get a response. The football, the energy, the quality - that second half was as good as we've played away from home for a while."

The skipper made sure Lennon's instruction to tighten things up and move through the gears was followed immediately after the break.

"Brown was awesome. He's just frighteningly good at the minute," said Lennon. "From start to finish I thought he was magnificent.There's a few of them there I would take my hat off to this season."

Commons is one of them. And, banging in three goals to take his tally for the season to 26, he was again the man who made Celtic's superiority pay.

After a few weeks to recharge his batteries, Commons is firing on all cylinders again.

Lennon reflected: "Kris is so important to the way we play and we set the team up to suit him. He has had a brilliant season, and goal-scorers make the difference."

The Hoops have now seen hat-tricks from Commons, Leigh Griffiths and Anthony Stokes since Lennon pepped up the attack by adding Griffiths to the side just over a month ago.

That's a terrific return. But while the front two do most of the foraging, Commons remains the club's major goal threat, spotting the spaces his attack partners create and linking up to capitalise on the shooting opportunities.

It is proving to be an irresistible strike force, compensating more than adequately for the loss of the top scorer in the previous three seasons, Gary Hooper, and the sidelining of the man currently running down his contract, Georgios Samaras.

The Greek international -one of the most experienced players in the squad and so often in the past the scourge of Killie - is paying the price for refusing to commit and appearing to shuffle quietely towards the exit door.

When he is spotted on match days, it is on the bench alongside the likes of Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki, both of who are preferred when Lennon feels the urge to make a substitution.

The manager is being pragmatic as he makes his feelings clear, in terms of Sami's position.

But, given what he has contributed during his six years at Parkhead, Lennon is not so cold-hearted as to put the 29-year-old's World Cup place with Greece in jeopardy, so he will be given some much-needed game time between now and the season's end.

That will come when the job is done, however.

Until then, it will be left to those who very much part of the Hoops' future - like Brown, Commons and even Henderson - to take centre stage.