Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde has been given a major morale-boosting appraisal by Ross County boss John Hughes.
County took Hjelde on a season-long loan deal last week in what’s his first taste of senior football. The 17-year-old would then make his senior debut at Ibrox on Saturday in what turned out to be a 5-0 mauling off the Ibrox side.
Even so, it was a terrific experience for the Norwegian. It will have been an eye-opening one too as he got a taster of the levels he needs to reach in order to compete for a regular spot at Parkhead.
And despite the result, Hughes certainly thinks a lot of the Celtic youngster. Already, the County boss is predicting a massive future ahead for the defender.
As quoted by Not the Old Firm, Hughes said: “He’s got a massive future in front of him, massive future. He’s really highly regarded at Celtic, and he’s a player that I’ve seen half a dozen times when I go through and watch Celtic’s under-23s.
“For his progress, he needs his challenge. He’s not played much football in the last 10 weeks. I think he cramped up towards the end, but he handled it. He loved it, he conducted himself very, very well. We were very, very pleased with his debut.”
Celtic future will be bright for Leo Hjelde, so long as he puts the work in
Just being selected for a loan move is a huge shot-in-the-arm for Hjelde. Especially to a Premiership club.
That’s so often proven to be a successful path to future Celtic opportunities. The likes of Ryan Christie shone at Aberdeen before making his mark at Celtic. Countryman Kris Ajer was a stalwart with Kilmarnock before becoming one of the first names on the Parkhead teamsheet.
Even Callum McGregor had to make his mark with Notts County before being given a run at Parkhead. Now look at the progress he’s made. All of these players will talk highly of their loan spells and acknowledge it was a key step on their paths to being Celtic regulars.
Hjelde has a glorious opportunity in front of him. He’s highly valued by Celtic and also clearly well-liked by County boss Hughes also. It’s all set up for him to have a big season.
He may also look towards the summer with some excitement too. Shane Duffy is due to head back to Brighton whilst Ajer looks set to depart given he’ll be into the final 12 months of his contract. There could be a pre-season opportunity there for him if he has a productive year.
However, for now, his only priority should be getting into the County side on a regular basis. But after experiencing a 90-minute acid test at Ibrox on Saturday, he should be more than ready for his next challenge.