Andy Halliday rubbishes Rangers suspicious minds as Hearts star brands split loyalty claims ‘a load of nonsense’

Andy Halliday will be a radio pundit on Wednesday night openly declaring his wish to see Rangers beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League Final in Seville.

The same guy will be a Hearts player on Saturday afternoon doing everything he possibly can to beat Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden.

If you suffer from a suspicious mind and don’t believe that to be true then that’s not Halliday’s problem.

There’s a quote attributed to him that sums up his affinity with Rangers.

“I wasn’t a Rangers fan since the day I was born,” he says. “It goes back further than that.”

But what Halliday won’t stand by and accept is being accused of lacking professionalism to do his job honestly against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team.

“Anyone who knows me will properly understand that idea’s a load of nonsense,” he says.

“Professional footballers play for the love of the game and because they are competitive by nature.

“There’s no doubt what I’ll be trying to achieve on May 21 and I know Hearts have a team who are more than capable of beating Rangers.

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“My motivation is that I have never won what I would call a meaningful trophy in my career – and I’m now 30 years old.”

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It could easily be argued Hampden owes Halliday one to compensate for a succession of sorrows suffered there.

He scored a stunning goal for Rangers against Hibs at the National Stadium in the 2016 Scottish Cup Final but looks back on the day as one of the low points of his career.

“Any pro will tell you that the cup finals lost are the ones you remember most,” says Halliday.

“Rangers were 10 minutes away from winning the trophy and the memory of what happened then, and the crowd scenes at the final whistle that marred the day, still stings.” The same description could just as readily apply to the infamous day when Rangers’ interim manager Graeme Murty substituted him two minutes before half-time, when Celtic were already two goals in front in a semi-final.

Television images of the player raging against the manager’s decision remain vivid in the mind while opposition supporters marked him out for ridicule.

But his recollection of the Hoops fans singing “There’s only one Andy Halliday” aren’t etched on his memory, regardless of what anyone might think.

“Listen, I was lost in myself at that moment,” he remembers.

“I thought the timing of the substitution was unnecessary but I’m not the type who holds grudges.

“I’ve spoken to Graeme since then about what happened and he’s apologized to me.

“I even understand where the Celtic fans were coming from that day. When I was in the stands at Ibrox for Old Firm games I used to sing about Neil Lennon every chance I got when he was a player.

“Then, as a player myself, I got to know him as the consummate professional and a stand-up guy. It’s all part of the rivalry.”

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Halliday was brought up in Govan. The Copland Road stand at Ibrox was at the end of his back garden and he got his first season ticket when he was four years old.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve,” he says. “I remember going to my first Old Firm game and Celtic losing 3-1 at Ibrox.

“Walter Smith, God rest him, took off down the touchline in front of the fans after one of the goals and that mental image never left me.

“I had five memorable years playing for Rangers but, over time, I have developed a great love for Hearts.

“We will be going into this cup final full of confidence but we won’t be relying on what happens to Rangers in Seville having any kind of impact on them at Hampden.

“Everyone thought 120 minutes against Braga at Ibrox at the quarter-final stage would take its toll on them. It didn’t.”

Halliday might have gone to the home leg of the Europa League semi-final against RB Leipzig, or even watched the match live on television.

He did neither because, weeks earlier, I had asked him to help me with a fund-raising event for a school that helps children with learning difficulties and where my daughter is one of the teaching staff.

I waited every day for the phone call to say he would have to cancel on me because of the clash of dates.

It never came because he believed in being as good as his word.

Halliday is a walking case of mistaken identity.

The person I’ve got to know from working with him at Radio Clyde bears no resemblance to the pantomime villain he appears to be for people the length and breadth of the country.

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“I can’t pinpoint a date or a game when I acquired that image,” he says.

“But I never take any of it personally.

“I live in the Glasgow goldfish bowl but I like to think I give respect and I get it back.

“I always believe in giving people the time of day because I was once a young fan and I remember what it was like to go up to players off the park and hope for a good reaction.”

He also remembers his parents allowing him to duck out of a maths exam at school to accompany them to Manchester in 2008 for Rangers’ UEFA Cup Final against Dick Advocaat’s Zenit St Petersburg.

That didn’t add up to the best of nights in the end but Hearts can count on Halliday putting himself to the test on their behalf at Hampden next weekend.

“There’s a lot of growth in this team,” says the 30-year-old.

“And the future can be built on players with a lot of time left on their contracts.

“I recently signed a two-year extension myself and I feel fit and well enough to hope I can go beyond that time as well.

“I lost a Scottish Cup Final to Celtic when Covid meant there was no crowd there and that was a surreal experience for someone like me who feeds off the fact fans make football.

“I intend to make up for that disappointment at Hampden when there’s a full house in on Saturday.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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