The Norwegian went on loan to Ross County in January to find himself pitched into a relegation dog fight alongside senior professionals fighting for their livelihoods knowing that life in the Championship will mean no new contract or one on seriously reduced terms.
Hjelde won’t turn 18 until August but has been given a crash course in the game. Being a victim of simulation last week away to St Mirren and finding himself back on the bench for yesterday’s six pointer against Kilmarnock.
An injury to Carl Tremarco resulted on the loan Celt being sent on to play at left-wing back rather than his usual central defensive slot.
With the scores level at half-time Hjelde put his side in front two minutes after the restart quickly followed by a third from Billy McKay. Kyle Lafferty pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but County hung on to their win to go five points clear of bottom placed Killie with two matches to go before the split.
I’m delighted for Leo. 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.
At 17 he is coming into man’s football. He hadn’t played a lot in the 10 weeks before he came here. Last week (at St Mirren) maybe the physical challenge was a wee bit much for him in the first half. Second half, he was hurting after the penalty, he was wanting to go and see the referee, we had to calm him down.
I felt that maybe played on him for a few days in training. Once we got him on, once we got him in at half-time we told him exactly what is required- when we are in possession you are a left winger, when we are out you are a left-back.
The to see him popping up and showing that desire to get there and score the goal, I’m absolutely delighted for him. It’s like you …. these things are just written in the stars. From the disappointment of last week, sitting on the bench, coming on, scoring the goal. They might play a part in the three points that keeps Ross County in the league.