CRAIG HALKETT intends to use his move to Hearts as a springboard to the Scotland set-up.
Halkett, 24, has joined the Jambos on a three-year deal from Livingston and will officially link up with his new teammates when the capital club report for pre-season training on Friday morning.
The commanding centre-back was a revelation for the Lions after arriving in January 2016, emerging as a talisman in their rise from League 1 to the Premiership and belying his relative youth to take the captaincy.
However, Halkett believes his switch to Tynecastle can take him to another level as he seeks to follow in the footsteps of fellow Hearts ace John Souttar by forcing his way into the national side.
“I think it [a Scotland place] has got to be the target in the long term,” said Halkett.
“My main aim just now is just to come into Hearts and stake a claim for a place in the team. I feel like I’ve got a lot to give for this team so I’ve got to do that first.
“Once I start playing regular games then Scotland is something I can look towards.”
Halkett was an interested spectator at the Scottish Cup final last month as Hearts succumbed to an agonising 2-1 defeat against Celtic, prolonging a wait for silverware which now stretches back to 2012.
Nevertheless, the former Rangers youngster is adamant he can lift a major trophy with the Jambos and achieve his goal of playing in European football.
“Growing up in Scotland and watching Scottish football it was quite an easy decision to make,” he continued. “It’s a massive club and is a great coup for me to come here.
“The main aim for this season is to try and get European football and get into the top three or four in the Premiership.
“We want to reach cup finals and win a trophy. Over the next three years, that’s got to be one of the main aims.”
Mature well beyond his years, Halkett – a Scotland under-19 international – racked up a total of 148 appearances for Livi, scoring 17 goals.
And he is determined to bring leadership qualities and a goal threat to the men in maroon.
“Goals are something that I’ve added in in the last couple of seasons,” Halkett told Hearts TV. “I scored eight a couple of years ago and seven last year so that’s something I can bring to the team.
“I was honoured when Livingston asked me to be captain. It’s a massive responsibility. I looked at myself as a bit of a leader on and off the pitch, so hopefully I can continue that here.
“I could see how good the partnership John [Souttar] and Christophe [Berra] had together so to go in and stake my claim for a place in the team will be pretty hard, first of all!
“But it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to and it’s something that I want to do.”