Craig Halkett showed us his desire by smashing through Hearts team-mate, says Harry Cochrane
From smashing into the back of Steven MacLean to arranging Harry Cochrane’s travel, Craig Halkett has made a notable early impression at Hearts.
His courage and leadership are already clear less than three weeks since arriving from Livingston.
Cochrane is not short on swagger himself but the 18-year-old is somewhat in awe of his new colleague. From the moment Halkett blootered into MacLean on his first day at Riccarton, Cochrane knew Hearts had signed a defender who means business.
“He is a quality player. He keeps showing me his goal from last year [from 40 yards against St Johnstone],” laughed the midfielder. “It bounced before it went in the net, but he is a good big player.
“On his first day training with us, he jumped up for a header and went right through the back of Macca [MacLean]. He just smashed him. I don’t think Macca was too happy but I quite like that.
“He’s a great big defender, very solid. When I heard we were signing him, I said it was a great signing for us. Hopefully he kicks on and has a really good season.”
Captaining Livingston brought out the centre-back’s natural organisational skills. Therefore, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when he took young Cochrane under his wing. He didn’t waste any time with that mission, either.
“Me and Jamie Brandon were in the car school before. I used to drive to Jamie’s house but now I just go on the motorway. Halks didn’t really give me a choice when he arrived. He just said to me, ‘we’ll go in together tomorrow’. He is throwing his weight around already and I’m not going to stop him,” joked Cochrane.
“I’ve already got to know Craig from being in the car school with him. It will be good to get to know our other signing, Conor Washington, because I know Jamie Walker from when he was here before.”
So what does Halkett think of the young travelling companion eager for a regular game at Tynecastle Park this season? “I think he loves me, honestly,” said Cochrane, smirking. “Some of the things I say are a bit dodgy but he’s been there before. I’ve been driving for six months so we take turns. Jamie sometimes joins in but he isn’t too loyal to the car school. He comes in and out.”
The smiles and jokes are part of Cochrane’s appeal. His convivial nature endears him to team-mates a decade and more his senior. Yet he possesses a serious side deep down and recognises the task facing him this season.
Injuries combined with illness restricted him to just eight first-team appearances for Hearts last term. The season before was his breakthrough year, when he played 25 times after debuting at the age of 16. There is some catching up to be done now.
“I want to get a few games at the start of the season. I missed the Shelbourne game in Ireland because I was a wee bit tight but it’s pre-season. I’m hoping to get a few games in the Betfred Cup and start the season well,” he said.
He started in Angus Beith’s benefit match against Inverness on Monday night after a summer of trying to increase his body mass. “I’m not that big, which I say in every interview. With all the running we’re doing, I need to get a bit bigger so my legs can get cope with it,” revealed Cochrane.
“We get a programme from Tom Taylor, the sports scientist, to come back ready for the season. I get told to eat a lot. I do the gym every day I’m in at Hearts apart from days before a game. I get told to take protein shakes to get my weight up and try to get bigger.”
Perhaps he will end up as imposing as Halkett given time. “That’s not going to happen. His calves are the same size as my quads,” laughed Cochrane.