BRENDAN Rodgers could have had no idea when he spoke on Friday about his plans for Celtic’s future, that he was literally walking on his mentor’s Field of Dreams.

The No 7 Restaurant at Celtic Park looks down from the Jock Stein End where a teenage Tommy Burns once earned a rebuke from the legendary Jock Stein for being on the pitch the night before a European Cup tie.

Burns told the story after his own appointment as manager in 1994, recalling: “I was a 15-year-old groundstaff boy and the pitch was set up for the European game. We were out heading crosses into the empty goal at the Celtic End and then I saw Big Jock coming out, shouting at us. You imagine yourself playing for Celtic but managing was something I never dreamed of.”

As Rodgers announced he had signed a new four-year deal, he admitted he had “never been good enough to play for Celtic but fortunately I got the chance to become manager and I’m proud”.

The Northern Irishman’s playing career was ended at 21 by a knee injury at Reading, where his role as youth coach in 1998 would bring him together with Burns when he became manager of the English club after being jettisoned by Celtic in 1997.

The deep friendship remained until Burns’s death in 2008, and if Rodgers is all grown-up now, in managerial terms, reflecting on the huge contrast between his Celtic era and that of Burns, offered some genuine perspective.

Burns’s brush with Stein came in 1971-72 as Celtic reached the European Cup semi-final, losing to Inter Milan. When Burns became manager, there was no European football, because Celtic had finished fourth.

There was a fan boycott, compared to the stampede for season tickets when Rodgers took over last June. Burns, though, was the man who put “bums on seats” as the new Celtic Park took shape, even if he never won the league.

Burns said he was too young at 37 to be Celtic manager. Rangers were dominant and spending money. Now, though, Rodgers is the man who has just sealed Celtic’s sixth title in a row and has access to finances Burns never had.

“Normally when you finish your career you have regrets about what you didn’t do, as opposed to what you’ve done,” said Rodgers. “When I was offered the job here, I didn’t want to go on for a number of years and never get the chance again. That was my fear. I might never get the chance to do it again.”

Reaching the Champions League group stage this season allowed Celtic to bank £30 million and Rodgers acknowledged the huge contrast with Burns.

“From that perspective, Tommy had a difficult time,” said Rodgers. “Rangers were in the middle of their run of nine. Tommy could not win the title but the level of football, and the players he brought here, were synonymous with how he was as a player. Life’s about timing. Maybe this is the right time for me.

“The target for Celtic will always be qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League. Then if you can get to the last 16, it would be a huge achievement for this club in the current financial market.

“If you don’t get out, can you finish in a Europa League position? Go as far as you possibly can? That’s a very difficult prospect. Liverpool played 18 games to get to the final and lost. Next season, the plan is qualifying for the group stage again. Then can we get beyond the Christmas period in Europe? That would be another step for us.”

Rodgers’ European ambitions, though, will be tested by the huge financial gulf that has emerged since Gordon Strachan reached the last 16 of the Champions League in 2007 and 2008, and even Neil Lennon in 2013. But the Celtic manager thrives on that challenge.

“Each year is getting harder because of the calibre of the teams financially,” said Rodgers. “What Gordon and Neil did was a brilliant achievement. It’s even more difficult now. We played Borussia Monchengladbach and their budget is £110m. They’re dwarfed by Barcelona and Manchester City. Then you have us at between £17 and £20 million.

“The game’s about quality players. If you’ve got them you go further. If you don’t, you’ve got to maximise what you have. The transfer record for this club is the same as it was in 2001. But I want to develop young players and bring in experienced ones who can be good influences.

“As a coach, I couldn’t ask for a bigger challenge, to make Celtic a force in Europe without the finances available at other clubs. That’s why I signed for four years. If I went back to the Premier League I’d have millions upon millions of pounds, where it’s all about buying.”