Hearts defender Craig Halkett going to extreme measures to get fit for Scottish Cup final against Rangers

Craig Halkett was willing to go to extremes to get back into the Hearts line-up ahead of next weekend’s Scottish Cup final.

Craig Halkett (left) with Hearts team-mate Andy Halliday at the end of the 3-1 defeat to Rangers. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Craig Halkett (left) with Hearts team-mate Andy Halliday at the end of the 3-1 defeat to Rangers. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Picking up what initially looked like a season-ending ankle injury in last month’s semi-final against Hibs, he feared he may have to settle for a cheerleading role on the sidelines.

But, after he came through the final 15 minutes of the side’s league season, in a match they lost 3-1 to Rangers, he said the effort was worth it as he now plots greater involvement at Hampden.

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“When we first got the scan and realised what the injury was, there was talk of an operation and I thought it was season over.

“But once we saw the specialist, he said there was a small chance I could play, so it was a no-brainer for me and for the manager. It’s a cup final - you do everything you can to get fit.

“We realised it would be tight but there would be a chance of getting back.

“I’ve actually been going into what’s called an extreme environment chamber in Hamilton.

“You’re in a room with a couple of bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and you can set the temperature, the altitude and the humidity. Just the other week there, I was on the bike for 40 minutes in 35 degree heat, 3,000 altitude. So it’s tough. Not that I was thanking them at the time, but looking forward to next week, hopefully it’s going to be hugely beneficial for me.”

A way of keeping fit while his body recuperates, he has given his gaffer Robbie Neilson selection options ahead of Saturday.

“I’ve been there five or six times, working really hard. To be honest, [the sessions] don’t feel good. The guy there said you will feel a wee bit dizzy and a wee bit sick after and that first night I went home and I was just on my couch for a couple hours. But it’s great of the club to look into these things and do everything they can to get me back in the best shape possible.”

By the time Halkett was sent on at Tynecastle the game had already slipped away from Hearts, who had taken the lead via a swerving Peter Haring shot in the 24th minute. But the young Rangers side had bounced back, levelling courtesy of Cedric Itten in the 32nd minute and then going ahead in the 45th, when Alex Lowry glided into the danger area and found Craig Gordon’s net. Debutant Cole McKinnon wrapped things up with nine minutes remaining.

Rangers had wrapped their regulars in bubble wrap ahead of the Europa League final, and Hearts began to do the same as the contest wore on. Liam Boyce came off with a groin tweak, while Haring and Ellis Simms were subbed as a precaution ahead of next weekend. But, Neilson managed to get game time into the legs of John Souttar, Andy Halliday and Halkett.

“With the injury I had, 99 times out of 100 it needs an operation to fix it,” said Halkett.

“But I’ve gone through the rehab and it’s come on better than first thought. I think it will be about getting through the final, having another scan and seeing how it is, then making a decision.”

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