‘I’m ready for Murder Hill’ says Hearts’ Craig Halkett
Craig Halkett aims to embrace Gullane’s Murder Hill today as Hearts’ pre-season intensifies with a trip to the famous East Lothian beach.
Players have warned the new signing what to expect after they were put through a punishing routine on Gullane’s sand dunes last summer.
Halkett is preparing himself for the worst, with some of Hearts’ squad being physically sick there 12 months ago. Manager Craig Levein is repeating the trip today in what is likely to be the most gruelling session of the training programme.
“It’s been hard so far, as expected, and we’ve still got Gullane to come,” said Halkett, who joined Hearts on a pre-contract from Livingston. “I’ve been hearing about it every day since I came in, so I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it or not.
“The boys have been winding me up about it and they’ve all warned me what a tough day it’s going to be. It’s just one of those things that need to be done.
“I had heard all about the Craig Levein pre-season long ago, so I’ve had plenty of time to prepare myself for it. Pre-season just needs to be done. You reap the benefits, definitely.
“They’ve told me wee bits and bobs about last year at Gullane, what to expect. I’m trying not to think about it, to be honest. The worst stories were about a couple of boys being sick, that kind of thing. You hear that sort of stuff at every club, how hard it is. It’s just something to get through.”
The 24-year-old centre-back endured some rigorous summer training schedules at Livingston. So far, he feels Hearts is more difficult. The physical and mental demands have taken their toll.
“Craig has a big board with what you’re going to be doing for the day. You come in, you see the training schedule – and you know you’re in for a hard morning,” said Halkett.
“You never know fully what you’re doing until you get out on the grass pitch. Yesterday was a tiny bit lighter with Gullane in mind. It’s not like pre-season was easy at Livingston. It’s never easy at any club but this has been the toughest one so far in my career.
“I went home after the first couple of days and my girlfriend would see me walking in the door and struggling. They realise it’s not all plain sailing and kicking footballs!
“However, you need to show mental toughness to get through it. You know the benefits you get throughout the season once you have built up a good core fitness.”
Levein and his coaching staff are readying Hearts for an early competitive start against Dundee United in the Betfred Cup in just over two weeks’ time. Halkett is determined to adhere to his new manager’s plans, whatever they may be.
“Every club and manager has their own wee twist on it. At Livingston last year, we went on a five-kilometre run to a park and then we went up and down stairs – and then ran the five kilometres
“How many stairs was it? Too many! It was a tough day, probably the hardest we had. I think at every club there’s a wee story about a manager looking to do something outwith the football side.