TO SUPPORT the Rangers Charity Foundation’s latest initiative, yesterday midfielder Andy Halliday was at the Glasgow City Mission, which offers refuge to the homeless. On Saturday, the 23-year-old will face up to the club which gave him sanctuary in his chosen profession after he was left with nowhere to play as a youngster.
Halliday, a summer signing from Bradford City, is discovering that things can be so much sweeter second time around. In helping bring the “buzz” back at the Ibrox club with nine wins on the spin, he is enjoying honeyed times at his boyhood team that told him to buzz off as he neared the age of 16.
I think I was always going back to football but Livingston took a chance on meAndy Halliday
The sting proved so “devastating” to him that he took time out from the game before Livingston gave him a life back in football. His spell at Almondvale proved so productive that Gordon Strachan took him to Middlesbrough while he was still in his teens.
With the West Lothian club the visitors to Ibrox on Saturday, Halliday will feel in the company of a friend as well as a foe. “‘It will be nice to play Livingston. I really enjoyed my time there and they were the team who gave me the platform to go and be where I am today. I have a lot to thank that club for,” he said.
“‘They picked me back up from the biggest low point of my career – when I was released at a young age from Rangers. They were the team who got me back involved in football, who gave me that platform to be in a first team at a very young age.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Livingston. I might have taken a break when I got released but such is my passion I think I was always going to go back into football. But Livingston were the club that took a chance on me getting involved.
“I’ve never been fortunate enough to go back to Almondvale since I left. This is obviously a home game, but I’ll look forward to all the fixtures we have against them this season. There has been a big turnover there in terms of players so I don’t know any of the lads there now. But I’m hoping to see some familiar faces in and around the backroom staff.
“I might not, but there are also fans who supported me when I was a young boy. I will be sure to give them a clap because it is the least they deserve.”
The hard-working Halliday deserves the opportunity for Ibrox redemption given to him by Rangers manager Mark Warburton. The manner in which he has embraced the sitting midfield role – when, as he acknowledges, most people in Scotland thought the club had recruited a winger when he arrived – has shown his desire to belong after bouncing around on loan and the lower leagues of England in recent years.
Yet, with veteran midfielder John Eustace on the verge of signing for Warburton and viewed by the Rangers manager as a man who can be his young side’s guiding old hand from a central role, Halliday could soon have the threat of displacement hanging over him. He refuses to fret, though, with the 35-year-old Englishman already a help more than a hindrance to him.
“It’s no concern to me at all because when you’re at a club like Rangers, you’ve got to expect competition,” Halliday said. “That’s healthy within a squad. For me personally, I’d be delighted if John signs because this has been quite a new role for me and he has been mentoring me a wee bit. I’ve got a lot to thank John for for the start of the season I’ve had and I hope he does sign because it would be another good squad member who would hopefully help us achieve our goals at the end of the season.
“It’s a new squad and we’ve certainly got youth on our side because we’ve got quite a lot of young players. The more experienced boys we have in to help the younger ones the better.”
Helping the less fortunate is something that Halliday has a genuine interest in. A £25,000 donation from the Rangers Charity Foundation to its partner Glasgow City Mission will allow the homeless shelter to open for an extra month over the winter. It will also provide for more co-operation with the Govan Law Centre to allow the more than 400 users, many with addiction issues, assistance to access suitable long-term accommodation.
The charity is close to Halliday’s heart since his mother Lynne works at the Glasgow City Mission’s Child and Family Centre in Govan. “I’ve been there a few times because of young family members who go to the nursery and they are great kids, said the Rangers midfielder. “It’s not just the night centre the money will benefit. There are a lot of factors to the project and I’m well aware of the amazing work the charity does. We know how passionate Rangers fans are so we are just looking for them to back the cause, which we know they’ll do.”