No-one could accuse Neil Lennon of going easy on Celtic when he found himself in the opposition dug-out. Last October he bristled following a 4-2 defeat at Celtic Park after a touchline altercation with then Parkhead assistant manager Chris Davies before claiming that Hibs had been up against 12-men such were the amount of decisions that had gone Celtic’s way. In September 2017, the first time he had returned to his former club as manager of another club, he came perilously close to ending Celtic’s then 58-game unbeaten run with a 2-2 draw.

Yet, Lennon has admitted just how at odds it felt to turn right instead of left at the mouth of the tunnel and climb into the visiting dug-out, how strange it felt to be surrounded by the familiar but in an alien role.

“You have been part of the furniture for so long. It is like walking into someone else’s house or your old house and someone else is in there,” he explained. “It was difficult but my record against Celtic as Hibs manager was decent. I was just doing my job the best I could for Hibs.”

If he had to curb his natural instincts, there will be a freedom now in letting go.

“It was bitter-sweet at times but now I’m back here I can enjoy the wins and the goals again,” smiled Lennon. “But, yeah. It was a bit strange. We played well. You take the moment and then as soon as the game starts you’re in your role as manager. We scored and made it 2-1 and ‘Parks’ [Garry Parker] is jumping up and I said ‘sit down!’ This was the 2-2 game when [John] McGinn got two goals. They’re all jumping up and I’m going ‘sit down…’”

This afternoon’s game against Aberdeen is the first time Lennon will be back at the club as Celtic manager since leaving in 2014 after winning three successive league titles. There have been suggestions that his exit then was acrimonious having agitated for more money to invest on the squad but Lennon has insisted that he left with a promise that he would always be welcome at the club.

Indeed, he has revealed that a Dublin dinner date finalised his exit from the club with the only thing left to chew on was whether or not he would even be back.

“I hoped I would be walking back in the door one day,” he said. “Despite a lot of reports or rumours and subjecture I left on really good terms with Peter and Dermot [Desmond]. We had dinner in Dublin and talked things through and I always wanted to sort of leave the door open and that’s the way we left things. And here I am four and a half years later with a great opportunity and one that I’m really relishing again.

“I had lengthy discussions with Peter in Glasgow and then went over to Dublin for a few hours for dinner with Peter and Dermot before the last game. It was all agreed and very cordial which is the way I wanted it. You don’t want to leave a club like this after giving so much to it under a cloud or controversially so it was important to me to leave on the best of terms and that is what we did. It is never easy leaving but that decision had been made.”

Finishing what Brendan Rodgers’ started this season and taking Celtic to the Treble would make it difficult to understand any narrative other than on giving Lennon the job on a permanent basis but at the minute the 47-year-old is relaxed about the long-term picture.

“There is nothing guaranteed one way or another and that is fine by me,” he said. “It is not about me, it is about the club. I have to make sure that for the club’s sake that we, firstly, try and win the title and then the Cup but the title is the priority obviously.”

Callum McGregor remains sidelined for today’s visit of Aberdeen but is expected to return for next weekend’s game at Dens Park. And the forthcoming Scotland European Championship qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino should work to the benefit of those Celtic players who have been injured.

“Callum will hopefully train next week,” said Lennon. “Hopefully he will be fit for Dundee and if not then I think he will go away with Scotland and be fit to feature in one of the games anyway. Ryan [Christie] has a hamstring injury so he is out for longer.

“Kieran has a bit of a pubic problem but he will be assessed when he gets there. Our physio is the Scotland physio so he’ll be talking to himself! But, certainly for Callum with the Celtic v Rangers game on the horizon when we come back it might be very beneficial for him to get some game time. We are hoping he’ll be OK for Dundee although whether he will be fit enough to start is another thing.”

Scott Bain has kept the gloves since taking them from Craig Gordon at the turn of the year and that looks unlikely to change any time soon.

“Craig has a bit of a knee problem at the minute anyway but Scott has the jersey and he has done nothing for me to think I need to make a change,” said Lennon. “I like him as a goalkeeper anyway. He is comfortable and confident. He made a really good save at Tynecastle at an important stage of the game so he is improving all the time. There is no need for me to even think about changing that at the minute.”