GARY HOLT is adamant there are no hard feelings towards Craig Halkett following his decision to sign for Hearts – because he advised the Livingston captain to join the Jambos.
The Livi manager has revealed that he held full and frank discussions with the 23-year-old when it became clear that Halkett saw his future away from West Lothian, with a host of clubs north and south of the border circling.
Holt made it clear that he believed a switch to Tynecastle would represent an ideal next step in the stopper’s meteoric rise.
Just three years have passed since Halkett was plying his trade in League 1, having joined Livingston from Rangers in January 2016 in search of regular first-team football.
Holt said: “We all probably knew that Craig was going to leave and we have helped, advised him and pushed him towards what we thought would be a good career move. Hearts is a good step.
“Livingston have done well for Craig, giving him the opportunity to come and play first-team football and learn his trade and improve. Now, at this level, he has kicked on massively and it is only right that he has the chance to move on.
“We’re not just here as coaches. These guys are human beings and if they come to you for advice then you need to take your Livingston hat off and be honest.
“I’d have been delighted for him to stay, but sometimes a player grows and you say: ‘go and further your career’.”
Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers were among the clubs reportedly monitoring Halkett’s progress during a spectacular maiden campaign in the top-flight, making 36 appearances and scoring five goals for the Lions.
Holt has no doubt that his skipper is destined to shine in England – but reckons it would be foolish to rush into such a switch for the sake of a slightly more substantial pay packet.
He continued: “The world is his oyster and I do believe he will end up down in England in the future – but don’t make that jump too early. He is still a young man and this is a great step.
“I hope he kicks on and becomes a mainstay of the Hearts side as well. We had conversations with Craig and it was a no-brainer with the options he had. We asked ‘do you want to go down to England so early? Take that risk?’
“We’ve all seen boys go down there and go missing. For the sake of £200 or £300-a-week, is it worth going down there and not playing?”
Halkett will undergo a fitness test on Wednesday morning ahead of the visit of Hamilton as he seeks to shake off the leg injury that kept him out of Livi’s 2-1 defeat against Hibernian last Friday
However, Holt has no fears about fielding the player for the remainder of the season.
He added: “The first thing he said to us after the [Hearts] deal was done: ‘don’t leave me out, I want to play every game’. That is the man he is.”
A win against Hamilton would see Livingston’s survival mathematically assured barring a mathematical miracle and, despite being unable to maintain the blistering early-season form which saw them in the European places, Holt insists that represents a staggering achievement.
Tipped as relegation fodder by many at the start of the season, Livi
He beamed: “When you take a step back and consider it, that is unbelievable – a massive achievement for a promoted club. And it’s not like we are a yo-yo club, Livingston
“Not only could we be safe, but we could be on 41 points. To do what we’ve done has been tremendous and we can look to kick on and target seventh now. It’s not out of our reach.”