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Craig Halkett hoping to bring success to Hearts

Celtic v Heart of Midlothian – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Craig Halkett aims to erase the painful memories of his debut campaign with Hearts by helping his club to an Edinburgh derby win at Hampden.

Halkett arrived at Tynecastle in the summer of 2019 amid big expectations for the season ahead but it quickly turned sour with a long injury list ensuring they started badly and never recovered.

The former Livingston centre-back was an injury victim himself, suffering a knee problem which ruled him out for two months and saw him miss a Hampden clash against Rangers.

The season went from bad to worse and Hearts ended up relegated after the coronavirus pandemic curtailed the league campaign.

The main glimmer of light over a long summer has been the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian, which will finally be played on Saturday.

And Halkett feels victory will wipe away those bad memories.

“I think it would,” he said. “I signed for a club like Hearts to get to semi-finals and finals and try and win trophies.

“Obviously the first six months we managed to get to the (Betfred Cup) semi-final against Rangers but I missed it through injury so that was a huge disappointment.

“I managed to get back fit and we got to another semi-final and it has finally come around. Just to get here is a massive delight for myself and hopefully we can go and get the win on Saturday.

“It was a strange time for everyone, not just in football, having four or five months off.

“We knew in the back of our heads that we had this game to look forward to. Now it’s come around everyone is champing at the bit and just raring to go.”

Halkett feels Hearts are going into the game in a better frame of mind than they would have done had it gone ahead in April.

Robbie Neilson has returned to the helm to replace Daniel Stendel as manager and led the club to five consecutive wins so far this season.

“The new manager has come in with his coaching staff and built a really good squad,” Halkett said.

“The signings have been really big, obviously Andy Halliday has come in and Craig Gordon has come in.

“Craig especially has been a massive signing for the club. He is a world-class goalkeeper and I think everyone outside Hearts knows that. So for us to have him, it gives us huge confidence, especially me as a defender having him behind me.

“Watching from the outside, I knew how good he was. He won’t mind me saying he is getting on a bit now, but his ability is still there for everyone to see.

“I see the saves he makes in training and sometimes you just need to laugh because some of the saves he makes are just incredible.

“He has made some big saves in games which helps us go and get those wins.”

The 25-year-old added: “Just in general the club is in a better place, it’s a good atmosphere about the place and everyone is happy coming into work every day.

“The lads are feeling pretty confident, we have started the season pretty well. Obviously so have Hibs but we are just looking after ourselves and we are really looking forward to the game and think we do have a chance.”