AS a statement of intent in the short, medium and long-term the nature of this latest crushing defeat of opponents who are notoriously difficult to break down could hardly have been more emphatic.

Rather than respond to the absence of suspended captain Scott Brown by battening down the hatches as Celtic continued the pursuital of their unbeaten domestic season, instead Brendan Rodgers decided this was the moment to find out about the readiness of 18-year-olds Michael Johnston and Anthony Ralston.

In doing so he demanded that bit more of others with Stuart Armstrong – for all that his rather more educated “posh boy” approach to public speaking in the pre-match huddle as compared with the Broony variety – authoritatively donning the armband while, the sublime touches provided by Tom Rogic demonstrated his capacity to be ever more influential.

The good-natured stick directed Armstrong’s way came from Patrick Roberts, who had earned the right to be chirpy, his inability to understand some of the “big words” emanating from the stand-in skipper apparently proving no hindrance.

Roberts looks set to be first to break up Brendan’s happy gang, but his keenness to stay at a loan club rather than represent England in the Under-20s World Cup, speaks to the mood at Celtic Park and the colleague who knows best what confronts Roberts if and when he returns to Manchester City, reckoned he can make it there.

“He deserves to play at the biggest in the world. I’ve been at Manchester City, I know how difficult it is to get your chances when you’re a young player,” said Dedryck Boyata, who spent six largely frustrating years at the Etihad.

“For Patrick I can only hope the best for him there. He knows it’s not going to be easy but he will give the best he can and everybody here knows his qualities.”

With supporters calling for Celtic to find the wherewithal to keep Roberts at the club, the Belgian indicated that the players would be similarly delighted should he stay longer, noting that “having him in the team is always a plus.”

However, they are happy enough just to have him until the end of the season.

“It’s a big boost,” said Boyata. 

“I heard he had some doubt because of the Under-20s World Cup. He’s a plus, he’s shown a lot – playing as a striker, playing as winger, making assists, scoring two against St Johnstone.”

More telling still was the central defender’s observation on the impact of their new manager on a squad largely assembled by his predecessor.

“I think he has improved a lot,” Boyata continued. “The manager has improved him and given him a lot of confidence. Scoring-wise, giving us these assists, being helpful to the team, the manager has worked a lot with him and it’s been paying off.”

The same can be said of more than a few and the way that has broadened the champions’ firepower is such that only the truly heartless would not feel for the likes of St Johnstone, who had humbled the second best team in the land on their own patch seven days earlier. Normally so hard to break down, they have in their four matches against Celtic, let in almost a third of the goals they have conceded in this entire Premiership campaign.

Also the last Scottish team to beat Celtic – which will be more than a full calendar year ago by the next time they play – they reached the interval unscathed having largely confined their opponents to long-range efforts in coping with the touch of Rogic, trickery of Roberts and teenage exuberance of Johnston and Ralston. However, when young Johnston was given just a bit too much scope down the right flank three minutes into the second half, he drew enough men to him that, when he provided Roberts with the ball, he had time to identify a precise route beyond the goalkeeper and inside his right post.

That opened things up and while Saints responded within a minute with a Stevie MacLean goal, there was no coming back once they in turn switched off, allowing Boyata a free header in the middle of the penalty area from a corner three minutes later, not least because Celtic’s bench was yet to be deployed.

Scott Sinclair duly got involved as the player of the season would be expected to against wearying opponents and he set up Roberts’ second goal, while Callum MacGregor made even more of an impact with his first run as he carried the ball into the penalty area, faced down a couple of opponents and made time to pick his spot.

It remains conceivable, then, that Aberdeen, as the current best of the rest, could beat them at Pittodrie next weekend to prevent them from completing their bid to go through the domestic season unbeaten and perhaps deny them their bid for a long-awaited treble in the cup final too.

Beyond that, however, as the next generation begins to make its presence felt, any sort of sustained challenge to an ever more formidable looking squad seems ever more difficult to imagine.