New Hearts defender not daunted by challenge of trying to oust Scotland internationalists

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Hearts defender Craig Halkett insists he will relish the battle for a first team jersey up against two Scotland internationalists.

The former Livingston captain capped a perfect debut in Tuesday’s 2-0 Betfred Cup victory Cowdenbeath after netting the opener and playing his part in keeping a clean sheet.

With John Souttar rested, Halkett and skipper Christophe Berra had a straightforward evening at central half but Halkett knows he is not guaranteed regular action when the Premiership campaign gets underway.

Halkett started in 34 of the Lions 38 league games last term and admits he is determined to show manager Craig Levein that he can become an integral part of the Hearts side following his summer transfer.

He said: “I knew before I signed that there were two boys in front of me and both Christophe and John are top players – both are international players. 

“It is a massive challenge to come in here and try to get myself playing regularly and into the team but it is something I want to do and I am looking forward to it.

“The coaching staff are brilliant, too. 

“I have only been here for four weeks or so but I already feel that I have learned so much.

“I was delighted to get the start against Cowdenbeath. 

“It was my competitive debut and it is a perfect scenario to score and keep a clean sheet.

“It is always different coming out for a competitive game than it is for a friendly and it was a really good support that we had.

“For the players it is great but for me it was good to get the 90 minutes under my belt.”

Halkett’s expertise in the attacking third is likely to help his case when it comes to Levein selecting the team, with the 24-year-old notching seven goals last season.

The former Rangers trainee is hoping he can continue in a similar vein at Tynecastle.

He added: “I have picked up where I left off.

“It was something I wanted to do as soon as I came here and that was to chip in with the goals, but always the most important thing is just getting the win and we got that as well as a clean sheet. 

“That and getting a goal is good and the goals are something that I have really worked at trying to add to my game.”

Halkett was part of a Livingston side that defied the odds to preserve their top-flight status last term but the defender is keen to achieve much more with his new employers.

Halkett, who watched on from the stands as Hearts were beaten in May’s Scottish Cup final by Celtic, added: “We could have a great season but I don’t think we should set any limits. 

“I don’t think there are any limits. We have a good squad, we have top quality players and I have seen in training just how good the squad is. 

“I don’t think there is anything that can stop us this season.

“That is the reason why I signed for Hearts. They are challenging for cups, they are up at the top end of the table and that is the main reason why I wanted to come here and play. 

“At Livingston we were underdogs in nearly every game whereas here we are favourites in most games. 

“It is a different kind of pressure but it is something that I am looking forward to.”

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