On the evidence of the video released by Rangers in support of a new community engagement initiative they announced yesterday, Andy Halliday may have a future as a voiceover artist when he hangs up his boots.
The midfielder, raised a stone’s throw from Ibrox on Copland Road, impressively narrates the film which will now be shown on match days in a campaign aimed at improving the environment around the stadium and enhancing relations with local residents.
It is fortunate, however, that Halliday recorded the piece a couple of weeks ago. For since Pedro Caixinha’s arrival as manager at Rangers, time for any extra-curricular activities for the club’s first-team squad has been at a premium.
The Portuguese coach has changed their working patterns, cancelling one of the regular days off they enjoyed under his predecessor Mark Warburton, as he looks to impose his ideas at Rangers as quickly as possible. While Halliday jokes that the change in routine might not have gone down well with the players’ wives and girlfriends – ‘there might be a few divorces!’ – he insists he and his team-mates are happily buying into Caixinha’s regime. Halliday’s immediate hope is that it delivers an improvement in Rangers’ form and consistency sufficient enough to end their season on a high note by winning the Scottish Cup and, at the same time, denying next month’s semi-final opponents Celtic the opportunity to win the treble.
“First impressions of the manager are good, it’s been really enjoyable,” said the 25-year-old. “The boys have adapted to the new training schedule, the new way of thinking, the new way of playing. Long may it continue.
“The boys got off to a good start with a convincing win against Hamilton last week and hopefully we will do the same again against Motherwell on Saturday. We are in for an extra day’s training every week. The day off on the Wednesday has been scrapped. But I do really think the boys have enjoyed it. It is hard work, but it is certainly enjoyable.
“He has brought in something that we are not all used to, so I think you have every right to feel as if there has got to be a time to adapt to the new training regime, but we have done it really well. He has been delighted with the way the boys have trained and the intensity of the training session. But the most important thing is if you slack off and you are not putting in the effort he wants, he will certainly tell you about it.
“The Tuesday is really physical. When he brings us in on a Wednesday, it is really just a recovery day. He just wants us to be in and gel as a group of players and get to know the staff a bit better.
“We are all trying to get towards one goal and get good results on the park. It had sort of got away from us. It has been well documented we have had quite a lot of poor results this season. The new manager has tried to change the mentality. Most importantly, he wants to gel that team together. That extra day has certainly helped.”
Halliday, fit again after a hamstring injury which has sidelined him for the last three weeks, has endured a frustrating season. He may be ‘one of their own’, but that has not spared him from being regularly singled out for criticism from the Rangers fans.
“I was happy with my own performances leading up to the winter break,” he said. “I managed to pick up a couple of player-of-the-month awards within the team and scored a few goals.
“ Obviously my performances dropped off after that and my own standards weren’t good enough. I take full responsibility for that. The new gaffer has come in and it’s a fresh start for us all. I’ve been out for two or three weeks now and the boys have picked up a few positive results.
“So it’s by no means a case of I’ll be straight back in the team. No one in the squad has a divine right to a jersey. I need to work but I look forward to the challenge. It’s all part and parcel of being at a club like Rangers.
“You have to be of a certain mentality to play for these football clubs. It was a fantastic first 18 months at the club for me. It’s not been so great lately, but you need to deal with that. It’s up to me to put that right. I’m forever grateful to play for this football club and, hopefully, the good times come back again.”
Halliday would love nothing more than those good times to start with a repeat of last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic. “That will always be one of the proudest moments of my career,” he said.
“It’s up to me to try and get back into the team for the semi-final this year. Celtic will have it in their mindset that they want to preserve their unbeaten run and get the treble. It’s up to us to try and stop it.
“From our side of things, we want to win a ‘Rangers’ trophy. We had a good year last season but if we are all admitting it, we never really won what you would call a ‘Rangers’ trophy. So it’s our last chance this season to try and put that right. It has been a pretty inconsistent season for us all but what a way to try and end it on a high.”