Lennoxtown exodus can't go on; Celtic should do all they can to keep Leo Hjelde

By David Walton

April 8, 2021

Regardless of how highly you value youth development at football clubs, there can be no denying the Lennoxtown exodus at Celtic in recent times has been concerning.

In recent years we’ve seen some of our most hotly-tipped talents leave for pastures new. Liam Morrison and Barry Hepburn departed for Bayern Munich. Ewan Sparkes was the next to go after six years at the club. Back in January, goalkeeper Liam Hughes swapped Celtic for Liverpool.

Then you have the potential pending exits. Karamoko Dembele and Armstrong Oko-Flex are out of contract this summer. Vincent Angelini has been linked with a move to AC Milan [Pianeta Milan].

The latest? Leo Hjelde is supposedly being tracked by Southampton [Scottish Sun]. The Parkhead youngster has been spending the campaign on loan with Ross County in what’s his first taste of senior football.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a spell for him too. There have been some notable mistakes, but that’s to be expected given his tender age of 17. He’s already managed to bag his first career goal with the Staggies and has been tipped by John Hughes for “big” things in the future [Press and Journal].

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Lennoxtown exodus has to stop; Celtic aren’t gaining enough from their academy

Yet despite being at such an early stage of his development, Hjelde is already being linked with a move away. This after being brought into the club back in 2019 from Rosenborg.

The player’s contract at Parkhead expires in the summer of 2022 [Transfermarkt]. At the very least, that gives Celtic some negotiating power. We wouldn’t get big money for Hjelde in any case, so there’s no pressure to sell. Our main focus, however, should be on getting him tied down for the long-term.

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

It’s sickening as Celtic supporters to continuously see so many bright young talents leave the club. Especially ones we keep hearing so much about. It already looks like we’re going to get some pain in that respect this summer via Dembele and Oko-Flex. The last thing we need is Hjelde joining them.

Celtic need to make a statement here. A statement that proves this is a football club that can help harvest young talent and give them opportunities. We need to halt the exodus as much as possible and start making the academy an attractive place to play football again.

And the supporters have also called for the club to ensure Hjelde stays put. They’ve been reacting to news of interest in him on social media, and it’s fair to say the response was unequivocal:

In other news, a Brendan Rodgers signing has confirmed that he’s in talks to leave Celtic this summer.