Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde has seriously impressed Premiership defender this season

By David Walton

May 24, 2021

17-year-old Celtic talent Leo Hjelde has seriously impressed Ross County centre-back Coll Donaldson this term during his spell in Dingwall.

Hjelde was given an early first taste of senior football this term by John Hughes. The Staggies boss, who left the club today, took Hjelde to the Highlands and put plenty of faith in him.

The Norwegian youngster has been given 12 appearances with County this season. His time with them has given him a superb introduction to Premiership life. And the best part about it? Hjelde put in some crucial displays to help avoid relegation this season.

His adaptation to senior life has impressed his former County team-mate Donaldson. And as Hjelde prepares to see what’s next for him after returning to Celtic, Donaldson has moved to big up what he showed with the Staggies.

As quoted by the Press and Journal, Donaldson said: “Leo has been great, he’s only 17 but it’s easy to forget that because of the way he plays. He’s in men’s football, a relegation battle is the hardest thing you can come into and he’s dealt with it well.

“He’s got a bright future in the game if he continues to play the way he has been. I remember at that age thinking it was quite easy but you get challenges along the way and you have to deal with them.

“Everyone is different, Leo will know what’s best for him and he will decide whether he wants to try down south. He’s at a big club in Celtic just now.”

Celtic young-gun Leo Hjelde has proven he needs more first-team experience

Touting him as a future Celtic centre-back is all well and good. To say he could start making his mark next season, of course, may just be overly premature. Celtic do need three defenders in the door at some stage in the next transfer window. Or at the very least two so long as Chris Jullien is back soon.

However, it’s perhaps a touch too early to suggest Hjelde for the Celtic ranks. That can only be determined by the new manager, who will surely want to see what some of the fuss is about in pre-season.

If it is indeed the case that Hjelde isn’t considered for first-team integration next season however, we need a back-up plan. Sending him out to another Premiership club would appear to be the most plausible course of action.

Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hjelde now has 12 top-tier games under his belt and has clearly taken to it well. Yet the Celtic fans will want to get a better look at him over the course of a full season. At 17, he has plenty of time to make it here, but another year out on loan could do him a power of good.

The managerial change at Ross County could make a return to Dingwall difficult. But there will be plenty of teams in Scotland’s top-flight eyeing up some new centre-backs. The prospect of taking Hjelde would be extremely attractive to some.

But for the player himself, he should take plenty of confidence from his debut campaign in the top flight. He’s planted the seeds for genuine growth and development next season. Hopefully Celtic allow him that opportunity, whether it be here or elsewhere.

In other news, Newcastle’s reported transfer budget should lead to a firm message from Celtic.