Hearts boss reveals Spain game plan and "massive difference" made by Craig Halkett

Hearts hope to arrange a friendly to help Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley and others build up match fitness before they begin their next busy period of matches in mid-December.

Explaining what is planned between now and his team’s next competitive match, against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle Park on December 17, Robbie Neilson revealed Hearts are seeking opponents to play during their week-long training camp in southern Spain early next month.

Hearts fly to La Cala, near Malaga, on November 30 for a seven-night winter training camp and hope to have a game in the middle of their stay. “We’re trying to get a game but we don’t have anything booked yet,” the manager told the Edinburgh Evening News. “We need to see who is about and try to take a game on.”

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While up to 12 senior players have been given a fortnight off, Halkett and Kingsley are continuing to train after missing large parts of the season so far due to hamstring injuries.

Goalscorer Josh Ginnelly and defender Craig Halkett, back on the pitch after two months out through injury, embrace at full time after Hearts fought back to draw 1-1 with Livingston. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS

Neilson believes Halkett showed enough during his brief appearance from the bench against Livingston on Saturday to underline just how big a difference he can make to the team. Returning to action for the first time since September 15, the centre-back came on earlier than planned after Kye Rowles was sent off and added a different dimension to the defence in his sixth appearance of the season.

“It’s brilliant to get him back,” explained Neilson. “You could see the difference he made right away, especially winning those first contacts against physical teams like Livingston – when you have to win it.

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“They get a lot of link ups and flick-ons from off Joel Nouble. He’s a good player. But the first ball goes up and Craig empties him and puts it right back down their throat. It makes a massive difference.

“We were planning to bring him on anyway. The plan was to give him five or ten minutes. He probably got 15 minutes instead, maybe more with the added time. I’m delighted to get him back. He adds real aggression to the back line.

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“He could probably do with games, but Stephen Kingsley is exactly the same. They are probably in the same boat. But now we have this break, they can recover and get back to it.”