Craig Halkett insists a curtain raiser against Celtic is a great way for Hearts to mark their return to the Premiership

Robbie Neilson’s side could hardly have asked for a tougher assignment in a televised clash with the 51-time champions under the lights at Tynecastle on Saturday, July 31.

However, with Hearts desperate to build on the momentum of cantering to the Championship title, defender Halkett insists Celtic are the perfect opponents as the Gorgie outfit look to celebrate their top-flight return in style.

Halkett, who played in Tuesday’s 7-0 friendly thrashing of Lowland League outfit Spartans, said: “It's a great first game - at home, on TV, against one of the two big teams in the country. 

“I don't think we could have got a better start. Everyone in the changing room was buzzing when we found out because these are the games you want to play in. We're just raring to go.

"Going back to when we were relegated, we've done the job everyone wanted. 

“As players, we wanted to get back up to the top flight. That's where Hearts should be. 

"Now it's about getting off to a good start and getting the club back to the top end of that table, where they should be."

Even with a limited number of fans inside Tynecastle, Halkett hopes they can still make life uncomfortable for the Bhoys.

He added: "You hear the whispers about fans coming back in but we don't know how many it will be yet for that game.

“Even a small number would make such a difference. 

“We sorely missed that last season. 

“Opposition teams know how daunting it can be at Tynecastle with fans in the stadium so we're looking forward to it.”

Hearts first have to negotiate Premier Sports Cup games against Peterhead - starting next Saturday - Cove Rangers, Stirling Albion and Inverness before the league visit of Ange Postecoglou’s side

The goals have flown in pre-season so far. After thrashing Linlithgow at the weekend, two entirely different Hearts teams beat Lowland League sides Civil Service Strollers and Spartans 4-0 and 7-0 respectively on Tuesday night.

They will also take on Ayr United and Falkirk in closed door matches on Friday and Saturday.

Halkett has revealed that many of the players also took part in organised training sessions throughout the close season.

He added: “We had programmes to do at home, plus Jig (Lee McCulloch), Gordy (Forrest) and the gaffer took turns coming in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

“Quite a few of the boys came in and did sessions. I wasn't in right through the summer as I was away but I got in as much as I could.

"Going back into the Premiership, I think it's good to come in and do some extra sessions to get that head start. The sessions were great, obviously in smaller numbers. 

"There was ball work and fitness, plus some time in the gym which helped the younger boys trying to progress from the under-18s to the first team.”

Halkett insists the players are also desperate to make amends in the cup competitions after losing out to lower league opposition in the form of Alloa and Brora Rangers last season.

He added: “We are only back three and a half weeks and then you're thrust into that first competitive game in the league cup. 

“It's a cup competition so there's an edge and, at Hearts, we want to go far in cup competitions. 

“We will take these games extra seriously. That can only help with the league games coming round.

"We are going into the Premiership, which is another step up from last year, so the more competitive games we can get, the better.”