CRAIG HALKETT has set his sights on Europe and silverware after penning a new deal at Hearts.

The former Rangers and Livingston defender’s previous contract was due to expire in the summer and negotiations had been ongoing for some time over fresh terms.

But the 26-year-old is adamant he was always keen to remain in Gorgie to build on the success so far under manager Robbie Neilson and is now tied to the club until 2024.

The Jambos currently sit five points clear in third in the Premiership and have designs on emulating their run to the final of the delayed 2020 Scottish Cup final, which they lost on penalties to Celtic.

And Halkett is convinced they are building something special at Tynecastle.

He said: “It’s great. It’s been a wee while but I’m just glad it’s sorted and I can look forward now.

“It was always something I had in the back of my mind, that I wanted to stay here.

“It takes time for these things to sort themselves out, but I'm really happy and I'm looking forward to progressing my career at Hearts.

“It has been quite a journey. Going back to when I first signed, where we are now is probably where I thought we were going to be back then.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. It was quite tough at the time, going down a league and coming back up.

“But where we are now, I’m really happy to be staying.

“I always saw this club as one pushing towards the top end of the Premiership and getting into the European places, and competing for cup finals and trying to win trophies.

“I feel like we’re starting to get to that position.

“We’re sitting third just now and we want to keep that going and finish third at the end of the season and get European football.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so it would be brilliant if I could do that with Hearts.

“Obviously, we’ve tasted a wee bit of the cup success by getting to the final. Unfortunately, we didn’t win but that’s something else I want to do here at Hearts, and try to win a trophy.

“All these things, pushing in the one direction, it was just a perfect fit.”

Halkett feels he is playing some of the best football of his career this term and cites his equalising goal against former team Rangers back in October as a personal highlight of the campaign so far.

However, the imposing centre-half insists the challenge for the Jambos is now to replicate their early-season form and hold off the challenge from the likes of Hibs, Motherwell and Aberdeen below.

He added: “The team’s doing well, everyone’s happy, the place is vibrant, there’s a good, positive attitude amongst everyone.

“We’ve had a good first half of the season but we’re only half way there. So, it’s really important we all get our heads back down and work hard.

“We’ve all had a good wee break over the Christmas and New Year period, but we’re all back in now and it’s hard work and make sure we finish the job we’ve started.”

Halkett follows on from the new deal agreed by skipper Craig Gordon on Hogmanay.

Neilson commented: “I’m delighted that Craig has committed his future to the club.

“He’s 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.”