Not the end of the road for Ajer

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP -

this sea­son. “I ac­tu­ally played in a rel­e­ga­tion play-off in Nor­way about half a sea­son be­fore I left to join Celtic,” said the 18-year-old. “It was for IK Start against FK Jerv who were try­ing to come up from the sec­ond di­vi­sion and luck­ily we won that one to stay up.

“So I know what it means to clubs to avoid th­ese sit­u­a­tions,” he added. “It means a lot in Nor­way but prob­a­bly even more here to stay in the league and we will do ev­ery­thing to make sure Kilmarnock don’t go down this sea­son. It’s a tough league and Kilmarnock played the play-off last year so that’s some­thing we’ll aim to avoid this time. We’re aim­ing for top six but that starts with Satur­day [against Ross County]. We want to take three points.”

After more than 50 ap­pear­ances in Nor­we­gian foot­ball, Ajer has had to be pa­tient when it comes to first team ac­tion in Scot­land. While it was Ronny Deila who brought him to Park­head, Ajer claims he learned more in six months work­ing with Rodgers at Len­nox­town, even with­out first-team foot­ball, than he has done at any pre­vi­ous stage of his ca­reer. But there is lit­tle sub­sti­tute, ul­ti­mately, for games.

There is a ten­dency to view a six-month loan spell at Rugby Park as rather anti-cli­mac­tic but Ajer said he had been dis­cussing his sit­u­a­tion with Martin Ode­gaard, an­other tal­ented Nor­we­gian teenager, who has just gone on an 18-month loan from Real Madrid to Heeren­veen in the Dutch league.

“Martin has gone to Heren­veen for 18 months and that’s re­ally good for him,” said Ajer. “He went to Real Madrid when he was 16 and it’s not easy to play for the team there when you are that young. So I think this time in Hol­land will be good for him. I know him well hav­ing been on the na­tional team to­gether since Un­der-15 level and now we are in Un­der-21s to­gether. So we talk a lot, he is a bril­liant player.”

The po­ten­tial of a rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight isn’t the only ex­am­i­na­tion Ajer will face this sea­son. A bright kid who is work­ing to­wards a med­i­cal de­gree in a bid to be­come a doc­tor when he fin­ishes play­ing, the 18-year-old still has ex­ams to com­plete in the Nor­we­gian school­ing sys­tem at the end of this year.

“When I am train­ing or play­ing I am 100 per­cent fo­cussed on foot­ball but when you come home and have three or four hours with noth­ing to do then I find it bet­ter to study in­stead of sit­ting in front of the TV,” he said. “I am con­nected to a school in Nor­way and get lec­tures through Skype but I have ex­ams to do in Nor­way that I’ll take after the sea­son has fin­ished. At the end of my play­ing ca­reer I will move back to Nor­way and start my work in medicine.”

First, though, Ajer has a con­ver­sion course to un­dergo – as he adapts to life as a cen­tre-back. While it was Bren­dan Rodgers who moved him back there from cen­tral mid­field, it is one thing to ex­cel in that po­si­tion in UEFA Youth League matches such as one against Manch­ester City this sea­son, quite an­other to deal with hard­ened se­nior pro­fes­sion­als bat­tling away for their Premier­ship wage pack­ets.

“I al­ways knew that I would be­come a cen­tre half but in my ear­lier days I was told it was bet­ter to de­velop as a cen­tre mid­fielder be­cause ev­ery­thing is quicker there and it’s a good en­vi­ron­ment to learn,” he said. “Now I’m con­vert­ing into a cen­tre-half it’s im­por­tant for me to play reg­u­larly.”

Craig Gor­don share an em­brace fol­low­ing Celtic’s record equalling re­sult against St John­stone on Wed­nes­day night.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.