Craig Halkett knows what John Souttar is currently going through as his Hearts centre-half partner prepares for a match where he may well find he is jeered by some of his own supporters as well as those of the opposition.
Souttar has signed a pre-contract to join Rangers from Hearts this summer. Although deals are often struck to facilitate an earlier departure this hasn’t happened to date in this case.
An escape route could yet present itself providing the Ibrox club offer what Hearts regard as an acceptable fee for the international defender. As it stands, however, Souttar looks set to experience a very surreal 90 minutes against Celtic tonight after recovering from the ankle injury that sidelined him against Auchinleck Talbot at the weekend.
The disapproval of some Hearts fans was very audible during the 2-0 win over St Johnstone last midweek.
But Souttar wasn’t also jeered by away supporters on that occasion. It is set to be a very different and far more challenging scenario this evening when Rangers’ great rivals are in town. Tynecastle could become a very hostile and unappealing environment for someone who, remember, is only 25-years-old.
Halkett backs his teammate to not only cope but also keep pitching in. Indeed, Souttar scored the winner on the last occasion that the teams met at Tynecastle in August.
“I’ve said before that the changing room here is really, really good,” said Halkett. “We all get on and have a good laugh. I don’t think anyone would take too kindly to someone if they thought they were downing tools and weren’t going to try. That’s not the case at all. John’s been working hard and he’s a top professional.
“He comes in every morning, works hard and trains really well. As long as he keeps doing that going forward everything will be great.”
Even bigger tests await if Souttar does not depart before the end of the window. Hearts face Rangers as soon as a week on Sunday.
Halkett can empathise – to an extent. He signed a pre-contract with Hearts during the 2018/19 season while still at Livingston. The news emerged at the start of April and he made four more appearances for his then club.
Only two of those were at home and in front of very modest crowds against Hamilton Accies and St Mirren, when he was sent off after just 17 minutes.
There was barely time for anyone to boo him if any Livingston fans were so minded. They were not, on the whole. He was sent on his way with the best wishes of the majority after sterling service.
"John is a strong character,” said Halkett. “He's a big boy and can look after himself. When he signed the pre-contract it was maybe not expected, but there was always going to be some sort of reaction.
"It was slightly different (in my case) because I signed mine in March. There wasn't the scenario where it was January and there was the possibility of leaving at the time.
“For me, and it will be the same for John, when you are still at the club you get the head down and you work hard. You are contracted to that club at that time so you just keep doing what you've been doing and whatever will happen, will happen.”