Craig Halkett has expressed his delight after extending his contract with Hearts until the summer of 2024.
The 26-year-old centre-back’s deal was due to his expire at the end of this season, but he has now committed himself to the club for a further two seasons after impressing for the Tynecastle side this term.
Halkett told Hearts TV: “Staying here was something I always had in the back of my mind.
“These things always take some time to sort out, but I’m really happy to get it done and I’m looking forward to progressing my career at Hearts.”
Halkett has made 88 appearances for Hearts since arriving in 2019 and has been at the heart of a strong defence which has helped Robbie Neilson’s team to third place in the cinch Premiership.
However, the defender admits he has had to overcome difficult times in Gorgie after the Jambos were relegated to the Championship in his first season.
He added: “It’s been quite a journey. Where we are now is probably where I thought we were going to be back in 2019.
“I always saw this club as one that goes for the top end of the table and pushes for European places, one that wants to get to cup finals and win trophies.
“I feel like we’re starting to get to that position. We’re in third at the minute and have a chance to progress in the Scottish Cup. That’s the aim going forward.”
Manager Neilson is delighted to have secured the defender for a further two seasons.
He said: “Craig is a big player for us and he’s really come into his own this season with some standout performances.
“To have him around for the next two-and-a-half years is welcome news and I’m sure he and the team will continue to go from strength to strength.”
Sporting director Joe Savage admitted it was an easy decision to offer former Livingston defender Halkett a new contract as he hinted there would be “more good news” to come.
He said: “We want to keep our best players at the club so that we can continue to progress, and Craig has been a big part of our journey so far.
“It was, therefore, a no brainer to make him an offer and I’m really happy that there was a keenness from all sides to get it done.
“It’s great news ahead of our return to action, and I’m hopeful that we’ll have even more good news in the coming days.”
In addition to tying down Halkett and goalkeeper Craig Gordon on new deals over the past fortnight, Hearts have signed Australian right-back Nathaniel Atkinson on a three-and-a-half-year contract.