Young Celtic centre-back Leo Hjelde has been talking up his development at Ross County as he prepares himself for future Parkhead opportunities.
Hjelde has been sent out to John Hughes’ side on loan for the rest of the season. And it looks as though he’s been impressing in Dingwall as his first-team appearances build up.
Since moving in January, Hjelde has featured on five occasions and has done his best to keep County’s goals conceded down to a minimum. However, he’s been helped massively by tips he’s receiving from star Parkhead defender Kristoffer Ajer.
“Every game I gest just now is a bonus”
Hjelde has been talking up his County experience as he reiterated his long-term goal of making it at Celtic. As quoted by the Herald, Hjelde said: “I have spoken to the coaches (at Celtic) a few times but it has just been to see how I was getting on. First-team football has been different but I feel like I am keeping up with it. Physically it can be difficult, especially if you are playing against guys at 6ft 5, but you have to learn to play around that and be a bit more streetwise.
“This will hopefully put me in a better position to go back there and try to play football at Celtic. That is what my goal is and all the minutes I get here will help me. Every game I get just now is a bonus for me. You don’t see a lot of 17-year-olds playing in the Scottish Premiership so I am looking to make the most of this experience.
“Kristoffer is a very good player and he had the same career path like me too. I like to be on the ball and try to create things too but my main priority always has to be defending. I keep in contact with him still. He has been very good to me and he still gets in touch and gives me advice.”
Leo Hjelde has just as good a chance as anyone of being Kris Ajer’s long-term Celtic replacement
There’s nothing holding Hjelde back from being that long-term Ajer replacement that we’re going to need.
Sure, many will demand money is splashed out this summer. Especially considering the dismal season we’ve just had. And with Kristoffer set to depart, the centre-back areas will be one of the main priorities when it comes to strengthening.
But in saying that, Hjelde will be looking on at Stephen Welsh and get a further boost. A long-term centre-back partnership of Welsh and Hjelde straight out of the club’s own academy would be extremely satisfying for supporters.
If he continues to impress in Dingwall, pre-season opportunities will come his way. But only if he does indeed stay in Hughes’ side and prove that he’s cut out for this level.
Celtic won’t be messing about next year. They have some major signings to make and some key positions to strengthen in. Youth players’ inclusions will only be made on merit. You can’t imagine the club being too experimental. It has to be more ruthless in order to win the title back from Rangers.
But in the long-term, Hjelde is in a great place. At 17, he’s already a regular at Scottish Premiership level, That’s not something many his age get to experience. Even if he doesn’t get thrown into the Parkhead first-team when he returns, looking a the bigger picture, he’s in a really good place at this moment in time.