Halkett incentivised by opposition, not potential rewards, in Scottish Cup semi-final
Craig Halkett has already tasted victory in the Edinburgh Derby this month and wants to repay the faith that Hearts fans have shown in their team by reaching another Scottish Cup Final. Aaron Fraser reports.
After the final whistle blew on Saturday afternoon, Hearts’ number 19 could be seen with his fists raised in celebration. Craig Halkett is a symbol of the resurgence the club has undergone in the past 12 months. He received his fair share of criticism during the Championship campaign but is now regarded as one of the finest centre backs in the SPFL, with a Scotland call-up to show for his efforts.
Halkett and his Hearts teammates rounded out the last of their pre-split cinch Premiership fixtures with a victory over this weekend’s opponents, and their fiercest rivals, Hibernian. Despite Hibs taking the lead in the first five minutes, Hearts sent Tynecastle delirious with a 3-1 victory . Andy Halliday scored either side of an effort from Stephen Kingsley to secure third place – and European football – while consigning Hibs to a bottom six finish.
The two will clash again this Saturday, in the first of this year’s Scottish Cup semi-finals. The weekend itself is historic – in the 148 year history of the competition, the semi-finals are comprised of an Old Firm derby and an Edinburgh Derby.
Halkett is well aware of the potential rewards that victory in this weekend’s semi-final would secure his club: “First and foremost, finishing third in the league was massive. Securing European football for the club was big, financially as well. But there’s that added incentive this weekend that it would be (confirmed) group stage football next season if we manage to get through.”
He adds that the primary motivation for the players is the opposition, and not the potential rewards: “First and foremost, it’s a derby and the biggest incentive the boys in the changing room need is to get one over your rivals.”
Halkett signed for the club in the doomed 2019/20 season and is pleased that the club is now back competing at the top of Scottish football, instead of fighting relegation: “Going back two years when we got demoted, I had that extra bit of fire in my belly to make sure we got straight back up. When I signed for Hearts, the last thing I thought I would be doing is playing my football in the Championship.
“The manager, Joe, the coaches and the people upstairs all have to take a lot of credit for the job they have done. The players have got to take a good bit of credit as well because we have worked hard all year. This Hearts I am at just now, where we are and all the excitement around the club, is what I thought I was signing for. I’m glad it is what it is now.”