Hearts defender Craig Halkett opens up on long road back from Christmas Eve hell and what he wants next

The centre-half made his first appearance in almost a year after Christmas Eve hell

Positives were thin on the ground for Hearts as they trudged out of Pittodrie after losing 2-1 to Aberdeen, but if there is one crumb of comfort for the Edinburgh club, it was the return of influential defender Craig Halkett.

The 28-year-old came on as a substitute with 20 minutes to go in the match against the Dons and while Hearts were hit by a stoppage-time Leighton Clarkson winner to send them back down the A90 empty-handed, Halkett’s return is a fillip. The centre-half has been out of action for almost a year, rupturing his ACL in a disastrous day in Dundee last Christmas Eve when both he and goalkeeper Craig Gordon suffered serious injuries. The ex-Livingston man’s time at Tynecastle has been punctuated by injuries but when fit and firing, he is one of Hearts’ best players.

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Halkett conceded his return would have felt better had Hearts taken something from the match in Aberdeen but was understandably delighted to be back on the pitch. “Yeah, it was a nice feeling,” he said. “It has been a long road since last Christmas Eve so it has been a lot of hard work, but thankfully that’s me past that stage now and I’m fit and ready to play. It’s been 11 months since I last played a game so it has been a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat and tears to get me back in this position. It was a good feeling. It’s ended in disappointment because of the way the game went but in a few weeks when I’m looking back, just getting some minutes in my legs can only be a good thing.”

Craig Halkett got 20 minutes under his belt during Hearts' 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen.Craig Halkett got 20 minutes under his belt during Hearts' 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen.
Craig Halkett got 20 minutes under his belt during Hearts' 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen.

Halkett has been back in training for a few weeks now and has had to remain patient in the final laps of his recovery marathon. “I think everyone has been transparent – myself, the coaching staff, the medical staff – about where I was at,” he continued. “I’m old enough and I’m not daft, I know the boys have been doing really well. It wasn’t the case where I hit my milestones and expected to go straight back in. I knew where I stood and it was just about being ready when the time came. Today was disappointing but the last few weeks have been good.”

Pleasingly, Halkett reported no major issues with his recuperation. “I think with the knee, it’s been nine, ten, eleven months out,” he said. “I think I would be very surprised if any one person was out for that long without any hiccups. Thankfully the ones I had were just minor, a couple of weeks with small muscle strains and things like that. Thankfully it was nothing to do with the knee, so it was pretty smooth sailing.”

It is clear what Halkett wants next. “Just more minutes,” he added. “Like I said before, the team has been doing really well. It’s just one of those ones where I need to work as hard as I can until the manager says that I am ready to come back in. It’s just about getting the head down this week, working as hard as I can, and then seeing what happens.”