Brendan Rodgers knows the old saying, he just doesn’t care much for it.

For the Celtic manager, there’s no point troubling himself with the old ‘never go back’ wisdom when he feels like he has returned to his ‘family’. It’s now been over a month since the 50-year-old replaced Ange Postecoglou, and he’s been taking a closer look at the environment he’s re-entering at a low-key training camp in Portugal this week.

Next week, it’s off to Japan for an eagerly awaited tour of the Far East as preparations for the new campaign shift into a higher gear. With the club in a far stronger position than when he first took the job in 2016, Rodgers feel nothing but optimism about what lies ahead in the coming months. Having won every domestic trophy he competed for back then, the bar is high for recreating such success.

But he never let concerns that rekindling relationships in football does not always work out, especially when he already feels so at home at Celtic once again.

"That doesn't bother me one bit,” said Rodgers. "I have had it throughout my career, people saying not to do things or 'You can't do this or that'.

"It feels great. It feels like I am back with my family at Celtic.

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"When you are with your family, you are at your best. The timing felt right to come back and it was the perfect time for me.

"I know the landscape but I am also ambitious for Celtic and I want us to be the best we can be. My hunger is very much here to do my best with a whole new group of players.

"I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve.”

With new signings arriving and players returning from loans, the family house is a bit crowded at present. There are 31 players listed as part of Celtic’s first-team squad, not counting the B-team prospects currently involved in pre-season.

That makes these early stages about assessment as well as preparation – who still has a part to play going forward, which youngsters are ready for the step up, and whose time has come to move on?

Joe Hart aged 36, it has been speculated Celtic could begin looking for his successor. It’s commonly perceived that the former England international lacks the skill with the ball at his feet required for European progression, but Rodgers feels it’s an aspect of Hart’s game that is underrated.

"It's for me to assess everything at the moment but I have always liked Joe,” he said. “He's 36 but he trains so hard every day and he's a great influence around this changing room. That will be really important and you can never underestimate that.

"As a player, he is undervalued in terms of what he can do with his feet. I don't need him to be Ederson at Man City - I just need him to keep the ball out of the net.

"Then when the ball comes back to him, I just need him to play simple. From what I have seen so far, and from Celtic games in the past, I think he can do that.

"So yeah, that question maybe applies for later on, but as I see Joe now, he's been fantastic for Celtic and a great influence. Like I say, I will assess it over time."

Two fringe men under scrutiny are James McCarthy and Liam Scales. McCarthy signed a four-year deal in 2021 but barely featured under Ange Postecoglou, while Scales’ involvement was bit-part before being farmed out on-loan to Aberdeen. It is likely Celtic’s squad size will be cut to make way for the players Rodgers wants to sign, but the manager insists he has made no decisions yet.

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"I have known James since he was a young player at Hamilton and he spent a lot of his career in the Premier League,” Rodgers said. "I know his qualities and sadly for him, since coming back to Celtic, that has been hindered by injuries he's had. At this moment in time, I am assessing the squad to see where they all fit and where it's at.

"I have only seen a lot of them from a distance before coming in so this is a chance to see up close. But I saw a lot of James down south and I know his qualities.

"Liam is with us and again, I am just assessing at the moment. He has been at Aberdeen last season and I am taking the chance to have a look at him.

"From afar I could see he is a very good footballer and he's at the stage where he will want to play. I just need to assess his qualities and see where he will fit into the squad.”

And then there’s Mikey Johnston – back from a positive loan in Portugal during which he earned international recognition with Ireland, only to then be struck down with a back injury requiring three months recovery. The 24-year-old already had a lot to do in forcing his way back into first-team contention having fallen off the radar entirely during Postecoglou’s tenure.

Rodgers is a known fan of the academy graduate, and while that was no guarantee of a Parkhead revival, it feels especially cruel on Johnston that his chances have already taken a significant hit without being allowed to kick a ball in anger. He travelled to Portugal simply to be among the group, but will be forced to wait to make any meaningful contribution.

"For Mikey, it's just about availability,” the manager said. "When I was first here, he was a young guy but he's 24 now. It's just about availability. He has fantastic attributes, he's quick and direct.

"He can score goals, he can create and has a lot of tools that I like for guys who play in wide areas. But you have to be available and that is going to be important for him.

"Hopefully this season, when he gets over this back injury, he can have a sustained run of fitness to perform. I have touched base with him and we brought him to Portugal, even though he can't do so much.

"I felt it was important for him to be around the squad and get that feeling, but he's limited to what he can do. Over the course of time, I will communicate with him.

"He knows how I work and hopefully he can get back fit and be stronger and better for it.”