HE MAY have been brought up on the Copland Road, but such is the devotion to Rangers of Andy Halliday’s family that he has revealed he was almost born on Kerrydale Street.
While some players simply pay lip service to their employers when they state they have supported a club since childhood, there is no question about the genuine nature of Halliday’s love of the Ibrox outfit.
The 23-year-old midfielder, who will make his first appearance for Mark Warburton’s side in tonight’s home friendly against Burnley, first became a season ticket holder at just four years old.
But, even before he was born, Halliday was an unwitting part of the Rangers support due to his mother Lynne’s attendance at an Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park on 31 August 1991, less than six weeks before he came into the world.
“Along with my dad and my brothers, my mum is a huge Rangers fan as well,” he said. “She loves telling the story of how that was my first game, when she was nearly nine months pregnant with me. She was ready to drop and there would been a real ruckus in the family had she given birth at Parkhead! My old man would have gone mental.
“Rangers won 2-0 that day with Mark Hateley scoring both goals. She was going to call me Mark because of that, but I’m pleased she chose something else because I don’t like that name.
“I started going to Rangers games when I was four and had a season ticket for 16 years. If you are brought up in Ibrox, there isn’t much choice about which team you’re going to support, is there? I was born into it. You hear it quite a lot – players coming over from Madrid or wherever and saying they were brought up fans of Rangers – but I was.
“I kept my season ticket until I was 20 and I moved down to England to play. Even after I became a full-time player with Livingston at 17 and I could only really get to Sunday games and some of the away matches, I kept the ticket.
“I did a lot of the away trips in Europe as well. The road to Manchester in 2008 was unbelievable. The Uefa Cup final itself was heartbreaking but the whole day was unbelievable. I had a ticket for the game so fortunately I missed all the riots and commotion away from the stadium.
“I was 16 at the time and actually had to sit my English exam at school the next day. But my mum and dad said ‘Listen, you might never see Rangers in a European final again and this could be your only chance, so you can go to the game’.
“We got the minibus back home after the game and I didn’t get home ’til 7am and my exam was at 9am. My mum will go mental I have told this story! I didn’t pass the exam. But to be honest, I don’t think I would have passed it anyway, so I am not going to blame the game.”
Halliday’s move to Rangers is the fulfilment of a dream he believed had evaporated the day the club informed his parents he was being released from their youth academy when he was 15.
“At the time it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I actually stopped playing football altogether for three months,” he said. “But it has probably turned out to be the best thing to have happened. I joined Livingston and made my debut that first year, when I was still a schoolboy. It was a club with a great youth set-up and I couldn’t have been in a better place at that time.
“From there, I have gained quite a lot of experience and was lucky to get that move to England with Middlesbrough. There was always going to be a chance I would get back to Rangers one day and I’m grateful it has happened.
“I wasn’t in the meeting when Rangers told my mum and dad I was being released. I waited in the car in the Murray Park car park. I could tell from their faces when they came out that it wasn’t good news. It was emotional at the time and I think that was the last time I cried.
“I’d had Osgood-Schlatter Disease on my knees – which is growing pains – and I’d missed the best part of a year. But the year before I’d done well, going away to Holland with the older team along with John Fleck. So it was a big see-saw that two years.
“I wouldn’t say I hold a grudge against anybody because it was probably the right decision as I hadn’t played enough football. It would have been a big risk to keep me on.
“At the same time, maybe coming back proves a couple of people wrong. I’ve done it the hard way but it was all for the best.
“As a fan, it has been hard to see Rangers skittle down the leagues and struggle to put in the results that everyone wants to get back into the Premiership. This year is a fresh start, the gaffer and Davie Weir have come in and they are trying to change the playing style from scratch.
“It is exciting to be part of the team that could take Rangers back to the Premiership. That is the only objective. Scottish football needs Rangers and Rangers need Scottish football and the Premiership. It is an exciting time to hopefully get Rangers back to where they belong.”