Celtic younger Leo Fuhr Hjelde is to join Premiership side Ross County on loan for the remainder of the season.

Hjelde, 17, had been named in match-day squads for the first-team in recent weeks (BBC). The left-sided centre-back joined Celtic from Rosenborg in 2019 (Scotsman), and is the son of former Nottingham Forest, Mansfield Town and Rosenborg defender Jon Olav Hjelde.

An international at youth level, Hjelde will only improve with playing time. His compatriot Kristoffer Ajer signed on loan at Kilmarnock in 2017 (BBC), and is now our first-choice centre-back.

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Ross County boss John Hughes spoke excitedly about the move (via Not the Old Firm):

“Leo is a good young player that will see this spell as a key part of his development. I think it is important that in addition to the experience we have, we add young, hungry talent in to the side that are eager to go out there and go toe-to-toe with some of the best players in this league.”

“Some people will look at it and say he is young, and he is a risk but sometimes you have to thrive on that, I know Leo will. For me, I have always tried to filter in young players in all my teams and this is no different, we will give him the opportunity but he has to show what he can bring when he is given the chance.”

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Celtic youngster Leo Fuhr Hjelde

Celtic youngster Leo Fuhr Hjelde (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hopes are high for Celtic youngster Hjelde

Norwegian youngster Hjelde showed real ambition and bravery signing for Celtic in 2019. Just 16 at the time, it was a move with an eye on the future.

Not long after joining, he spoke with real determination to the Celtic View about his first-team chances. He said:

 

“I’m still 16 so I know I will probably have to be patient and wait for my opportunities. There’s a lot to learn from the players here, though, so I will be busy.

“I’m not stressing about how quickly this happens but, obviously, I would like to train with the first team as much as I can. My immediate focus is to train well, avoid injury and play as much as I can.”

Ross County represent a real chance for Hjelde to shine. The Staggies have the second-worst defence in the league, having shipped 43 goals in 24 matches (BBC).

Needless to say, Hjelde will have quite a job keeping it tight at the back for John Hughes’ side. It’s a tough test, especially at just 17, but the Celtic coaching staff have real faith in the young centre-back’s abilities.

With Kristoffer Ajer likely to leave Celtic in the summer, and Shane Duffy only in on loan, it’s good to see that there’s a genuine development plan for Hjelde.

With any luck, we’ll see a repeat of Ajer’s turnaround in fortunes after his stint at Killie.

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