Hearts defender Craig Halkett is taking extreme measures to get fit for the Scottish Cup final against Rangers

Craig Halkett (left) with Hearts teammate Andy Halliday at the end of the 3-1 loss to Rangers. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

After initially suffering a season-ending ankle injury in last month’s semifinals against Hibs, he feared settling for a cheerleading role on the sidelines.

But after enduring the final 15 minutes of the side’s league season in a game they lost 3-1 to Rangers, he said the effort was worth it as he now plans a bigger commitment at Hampden.

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“When we first got the scan and determined what the injury was, there was talk of surgery and I thought the season was over.

“But when we saw the specialist he said there was a small chance I could play so it was a no-brainer for me and for the manager. It’s a cup final – you do everything to get fit.

“We knew it was going to be tight but there would be a chance to come back.

“I actually went to what is called an extreme environmental chamber in Hamilton.

“You’re in a room with a couple of bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, and you can set the temperature, elevation, and humidity. Just the other day I was there on the bike in 35 degrees heat and 3,000 meters in altitude for 40 minutes. So it’s tough. Not that I thanked them at the time, but I’m looking forward to the next week, which I hope will be of great benefit to me.”

To keep fit while his body recovers, he gave his gaffer Robbie Neilson choices ahead of Saturday.

“I’ve been there five or six times and worked really hard. Honestly, [the sessions] i don’t feel good The guy there said you’re going to get a little dizzy and a little sick afterward, and that first night I went home and I just lay on my couch for a couple of hours. But it’s great for the club to look into these things and do whatever it takes to get me back in the best possible shape.”

By the time Halkett came on as a substitute at Tynecastle, the game was slipping away from Hearts, who took the lead in the 24th minute through an evasive Peter Haring shot. But the young Rangers side had fought back, leveling in the 32nd minute thanks to Cedric Itten and taking the lead in the 45th minute when Alex Lowry slid into danger and found Craig Gordon’s net. Debutant Cole McKinnon ended the game with nine minutes remaining.

Rangers had their regulars wrapped in bubble wrap ahead of the Europa League final and Hearts began doing the same as the competition progressed. Liam Boyce escaped with a groin injury while Haring and Ellis Simms were substituted ahead of next weekend as a precaution. But Neilson managed to get playing time into the legs of John Souttar, Andy Halliday and Halkett.

“With the injury that I had, 99 times out of 100 it needs surgery to fix it,” Halkett said.

“But I’m out of rehab and it’s going better than I first thought. I think it’s going to be about getting through the final, doing another scan and seeing what it’s like, and then making a decision.”

https://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-defender-craig-halkett-going-to-extreme-measures-to-get-fit-for-scottish-cup-final-against-rangers-3694792 Hearts defender Craig Halkett is taking extreme measures to get fit for the Scottish Cup final against Rangers

Matthew Hallett

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