If you said the future was bright for Celtic, it would be an incorrect statement. At the moment, they are a club in free fall.
So often the dominant force in Scottish football, the Hoops have been swept aside in unrelenting fashion by their biggest rivals this season.
The future is uncertain after Neil Lennon departed his role as Celtic manager a week ago and with Dominic McKay to replace Peter Lawwell in the summer, the entire outlook at Parkhead is on the verge of changing.
A potential 12-man exodus may also be on the horizon and that only adds a further lack of clarity heading into next term.
Ajer has been a tremendous servant to the Bhoys and has been one of a few positives to take from an arduous season. In the words of John Hartson, “he’s a credit to the rest of the players.”
The defender is a role model and a beacon of advice for some of the younger players coming through. For Stephen Welsh, he must find his influence invaluable. Though, a player taking on the brunt of his goodwill is Leo Hjelde.
Like Ajer, the teenager is from Norway and just as his fellow countryman does, he also plays in the centre of defence.
The 17-year-old is currently on loan at Ross County where he’s enjoying his first taste of senior football. Hjelde has featured on five occasions and although inconsistent displays have followed, he is still incredibly inexperienced.
Though, if he harnesses the advice given from Ajer, he could become a force to be reckoned with over the next few years. He has taken a similar route to the Celtic stalwart and is now looking forward to a bright future having never featured in the first-team.
“This will hopefully put me in a better position to go back there and try to play football at Celtic,” Hjelde admitted about his loan spell.
“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,” he added.
Indeed, a great deal of trust has been thrown upon the youngster’s shoulders playing in the top division at such an age, but for Staggies boss John Hughes, that’s no problem. After penning temporary terms, he commented: “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 into the side that are eager to go out there and go toe-to-toe with some of the best players in this league.”
It’s not just his native country that provokes Ajer comparisons, however. Hjelde’s playing style is also incredibly similar.
“Kristoffer is a very good player and he had the same career path like me too,” he said.
“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,” the defender added.
If Ajer leaves, it won’t only be disappointing to the supporters but also for Hjelde. Clearly, he sees the tall defender as a big influence. That being said, it could open up a clearer route to the first-team for the teenager.
He has similar attributes and a wise head on his shoulders, just as Ajer did at the same age.