"He's destined for big, big, big things"; John Hughes on Celtic teenager

By John McGinley

March 6, 2021

Ross County manager John Hughes is elated for Celtic teenage talent Leo Hjelde after he scored his first professional goal this afternoon.

Hjelde popped up with a vital second-half effort against Kilmarnock in a 3-2 victory.

The 17-year-old came into the game in the 22nd minute, replacing the injured Carl Tremarco on the left flank.

It was a crucial win for the Staggies, who move four points clear of Killie in the relegation battle at the bottom of the table.

Hughes praised Hjelde in his post-match interview on Ross County TV, stating: “I’m delighted for Leo.

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“He found himself out of the team a little bit, then came on there and got his goal.

“He’s destined for big, big, big things. He won’t be far away from the Celtic first-team when he goes back, but this is what he needs to be doing.”

Hughes knows a thing or two about performing as a defender for Celtic himself, having made 47 appearances for the club in the 1990s.

It’s promising to hear that the teenager is impressing in matches and in training up north.

Hjelde is in the best place for his development.

He’s unlikely to have been given a shot in the Celtic first-team under Neil Lennon and there’s a lack of reserve squad matches right now due to the ongoing pandemic.

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

Hughes also knows how to look after and treat a youngster playing first-team football. He went on to say Hjelde was out of the team today after taking his performance last week against St Mirren badly. He knows when a young player has to be protected.

Hopefully, Yogi’s prediction is bang on and that Hjelde is one of the next breakthrough talents to make his mark at Celtic Park. His versatility at centre-half and left-back next season could prove very useful.

In other news, Celtic have a £2m decision to make on Jack Hendry.