Leo Hjelde: Rotherham United's Norwegian history-maker

Leo Hjelde makes his Millers debutLeo Hjelde makes his Millers debut
Leo Hjelde makes his Millers debut
HE’s the youngest Norwegian ever to play in the Premier League and he’s been likened to Liverpool and Holland star Virgil van Dijk.

Welcome to Rotherham United, Leo Hjelde.

The 19-year-old defender joined the Millers on loan from Leeds United last week and enjoyed an eye-catching debut at left-back in Saturday’s 4-0 Championship home win over Blackburn Rovers.

The van Dijk comparison stems from a temporary spell in the Scottish Premiership with Ross County two years previously when Hjelde’s form had Staggies boss John Hughes making the link.

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“It was a bit of a joke, I think,” the teenager grinned. “The guys were giving me a bit of stick after it and we had a great laugh.”

While that lofty tag might not quite stick, there’s no doubting the prospect’s talent.

Leeds paid a seven-figure fee to take him from Celtic 18 months ago and soon he was setting that new Norwegian age mark with top-flight appearances against West Ham United and Everton.

The son of former Nottingham Forest defender Jon Olav Hjelde, he is highly rated at Elland Road as a full-back and as a centre-half and has come to AESSEAL New York Stadium to play senior football and accelerate his development.

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“I’m very excited,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good few months and I’m really looking forward to it.

“The Championship is probably the most competitive league in the world. I think it will be a good platform for me to move forward.

“My best attributes are that I’m quite quick and I like to drive out with the ball. I’m comfortable in possession. I Iike to keep the ball moving. Also, I’m very good defensively one v one.

“Everyone has been very welcoming, the staff and the players. It has been very easy to just slide into the group.”

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This season, Hjelde has played in the League Cup and FA Cup for Leeds before heading down the M1 to be part of the Millers’ second-tier survival mission.

The proximity of the two clubs helped to seal the deal.

“I can travel in from Leeds each morning,” he said. “It’s 50 minutes down the motorway. It’s perfect. I can live at home and have my network around me.”



“He’s flexible. He’s been on the pitch briefly for Leeds at the top, top level.  He’s a good player.

“He’s only 19 so we have to be right in terms of when he plays, what position he plays, keeping his game simple and making him understand that he’s a defender first and foremost.

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“He’ll add a bit of freshness and positive mentality within the group and he’s someone we’re looking forward to working with.

“We’re grateful to Leeds for letting a player of his quality out to us.”

— Matt Taylor