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].
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.
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:
Leo Hjelde has been getting rave reviews at Ross County this season while hes been on loan which is attracting interest from down south. A Centre back/Left back he could be one to watch for next season 🇳🇴🍀 #Celticfc #Hjelde #Rosscounty pic.twitter.com/oH5per8LtO
— LubosEleven (@ElevenLubos) April 7, 2021
Loan watch 🤝Transfer Rumor.
Southampton are also keeping tabs on Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde who is on loan with Premiership strugglers Ross County.
In my opinion Celtic need to keep these young guys and see what they are about, stop letting youth walk away🙄🍀 pic.twitter.com/owkXhywsHp
— Endless Celts Podcast (@CeltsEndless) April 7, 2021
It’s a hard one as more are leaving than they ever did but they are going to EPL or clubs like Bayern Munich. Even at that level the finances are impossible to compete with.
— Brian MacFarlane (@brimacf73) April 7, 2021
He's only 17 years old, he's going to make mistakes at that age.
It's good he's getting games so young!
— Everything Celtic (@aboutceltic) April 6, 2021
Hopefully he’ll know exactly how much it’s helped Ajer by staying here for as long as he has and will do the same.
— Conor (@ConorM67_) April 6, 2021
Definitely one for the future, get him signed up.
— Kev Murray (@KevMurrayOff) April 6, 2021
Loaning out a 17 year old to a premiership team, it was always going to happen
— ShadowsOfWeevil🍀 (@ATcfc88) April 6, 2021
I’d be wanting to keep him, his goal was class and he’s got bags of pace from any clips I seen.
— A D A M (@adthelad57) April 6, 2021