Players' futures on the line at Hearts as Craig Halkett explains long-term thinking
With more squad restructuring planned this summer, some Hearts players may only have a few games left in maroon.
There are nine Championship fixtures remaining following Friday night’s draw in Inverness. Those who want to play with the Edinburgh club in next season’s Premiership know there are limited chances to impress.
Frustrations are increasing after three successive 1-1 draws against Queen of the South, Morton and Inverness. Hearts remain 12 points clear at the top of the league but second-placed Raith Rovers have two matches in hand.
Manager Robbie Neilson will look to recruit in several positions if his team achieve promotion and current incumbents are understandably wary.
Defender Craig Halkett said futures are on line ahead of next season. “Everyone knows that we are playing for our futures here. The manager has brought people in this season to do a job and get the team back into the Premiership,” he said.
“He has said before that he wants to strengthen the squad again, so everyone should feel we are playing for our future and prove that they are good enough to be here next season.
“We have to win the league and that’s the first incentive, but another is to make sure you keep performing to put yourself in the manager’s plans for next season too.
“Individually we all know what the job is and that’s to win this league and get the club back to where it belongs in the Premiership. It is a shorter season this year, we only have nine games left.
“We know we have to win games to get over the line. I don’t think there is more pressure on us or anything like that, we just know ourselves we have to do better.
“We haven’t won enough games of late and we need to change that and prove to ourselves that we can do that.”
A 12-point lead with nine games left is nonetheless a decent cushion, even if there are arguments that it should be greater. “We knew we were the biggest team in the league at the start of the season,” said Halkett.
“For me, we should be in the Premiership and challenging for the top six and top four. That’s where we feel we should be as a club. To go and win the league comfortably was the aim.
“We have a lead at the top of the table and from now until the end of the season we want to win as many games as we can to wrap it up as quickly as we can.
“In football, nothing is a given and we know we have to prove that we are good enough players to go and do that. That’s a challenge and we have to rise to it.”
Their efforts have been undermined by losing the first goal in each of their last three games. Miles Storey put Inverness ahead on Friday before Halkett climbed to nod Aaron McEneff’s cross downwards for Liam Boyce to equalise.
“It goes back to us giving teams a head start and then we need to score two to win the game. It isn’t good enough from our point of view. We had a chat after the Inverness game and we said that we have to start games better from now on.”