John Hughes has tipped Leo Hjelde for a big future at Celtic after the Ross County loanee bagged the first goal of his career.
Hjelde came on a substitute for the injured Carl Tremarco, who has sustained a hamstring injury, in the first half of Saturday’s pivotal 3-2 win over Kilmarnock.
The 17-year-old was a January arrival from the Hoops and has appeared six times for County, at either left-back or centre-half.
Son of former Nottingham Forest defender Jon Olav, Hjelde joined Celtic in 2019 from Rosenborg and is a Norwegian youth international.
His stint at County is his first taste of senior football and while losing Tremarco is a blow, Hughes is optimistic of what Hjelde can achieve.
1️⃣ | Leo Hjelde notches his first goal in senior football at the Global Energy Stadium 🔥 pic.twitter.com/VmK068MxOR
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) March 7, 2021
“Carl’s done his hamstring – it’s a nightmare. But Leo came on and got his goal; he’s got massive things in front of him. He won’t be far away from Celtic’s first-team when he goes back.
“This will do him the world of good. Training and playing with men, getting battered about and coming back for more. He’s got more in the locker. He’s got a great left foot.
“I’m delighted for them all – even the substitutes that have come on.”
The teenager started five of the last six games, only missing out on the Celtic game due to it being against his parent club.
Hjelde also had the disappointment of giving away the late penalty against St Mirren to rebound from the week before, showing his ability to respond in the best possible fashion.
Hughes added: “Right from now until the end of the season, it’s about mental pressure and how you handle it. Does it affect you? I’m massive on the mental side of things. It’s the brain that gets your motor going.
“Concentrate on the process, forget the outcome. You’re on the pitch the first 45 minutes, you might touch it for about half a minute, 15 or 20 times? What are you worried about?
“I don’t know if they take it on board. Is it pressure or is it a challenge? To me it’s a challenge, you’ve got to embrace it and I think they embraced it on Saturday.”
County’s final two games before the split come at home to Hibernian this weekend and then an away trip to McDiarmid Park to face St Johnstone.