One start and four substitute appearances for Andy Halliday since his recall from an ill-starred loan spell in Azerbaijan seven weeks ago accords him only bit-part status at Rangers.
At least, though, it is a bit he can get his teeth into. These molars were left permanently gnashing before he was banished to Asia by Pedro Caixinha in June. The Portuguese coach seemed to take great exception to the utility player soon after his March arrival in Scotland. It left Halliday, a player supposed to be living the dream at his boyhood club, experiencing a nightmare every day he came to his work.
Graeme Murty’s desire to have the 26-year-old around - Halliday was meant to remain for the whole season with a Gabala side he started only three games for - is in sharp contrast to Caixinha’s attitude. And therefore sharp relief for the player.
“The last spell became a bit difficult for me because pretty early on in Pedro’s tenure I knew that my immediate future wasn’t going to be at Rangers,” Halliday said. “At that period he sort of made it as difficult as possible for me to enjoy.
“I tried to. Every day. Because I am lucky to be here and lucky to come in and train every single day but it got to a difficult period. I don’t think the previous manager and I had a general hatred for each other, it just wasn’t a great working relationship. One thing I will say is he was honest. He made it clear my future wasn’t at the club. That was all we really spoke about at that point. It was up to me to work hard for my own personal benefit when I knew, at the end of the season, I would need to go on loan.
“At the same time I spoke to him, I said that was the thing for me because I didn’t want to stay here and not be part of the plans and just come into training every day and not having football on Saturday. So I went on loan and still didn’t get any football on a Saturday...
“I don’t want to talk too much about the previous manager. I will do what I think is right and behave in the way I think a Rangers man should. He did quite a lot of talking in the media about his players but I am not willing to do that, I wish him all the best for the future. Thankfully I am back now and the gaffer has been excellent with me, patient with me to get up to speed and try to compete and contend [for a place] as well as I can.
“I knew I would have to feel my way back in. It’s a massive football club where you’ve got no given right to come back after an unsuccessful loan spell and expect to play much game time.”
The Rangers to which Halliday has returned doesn’t just bear little comparison to the one he left because of personal reasons. The Murty influence, which mixes a certain intelligence and benevolence, is a world apart from the muddled malevolence that apparently framed Caixinha’s approach behind the scenes. Even more damning for the latter after he presented himself as a coaching guru, Halliday is in no doubts that the relative training ground novice Murty has outstripped him in this domain.
“The general feeling is night and day in my opinion in terms of positivity around the group and the players,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is the intensity in the training sessions. Part of that is down to the competition for places as well but also the drills that the gaffer is putting on. It’s very difficult to come into a place like this as a football player and not be happy. But the gaffer does an even better job to just make it that bit more intense.”
The issue for Halliday, who is likely to find himself on the bench at Hamilton today, is what precise place he is competing for. The story of his Ibrox career, which began when Mark Warburton brought him to the club in the summer of 2015 from Middlesbrough and moved him from the wing to a deep-lying role in the centre of the park.
“I’d never complain about where I play - I’m just happy to play,” he said. “Honestly, I’d never played holding midfielder before so I can’t sit here and say it’s my position, but I was happy to play it for Rangers.
“It’s not my most natural position but I’m not sure what is. Even at Middlesbrough , I played a few different places - left back, on the wing, further forward in midfield, so I’m a jack of all trades probably, master of none. Being versatile is good because you can bring a lot to the team but sometimes a bit of stability is good.”
The search for stability seems a constant quest for Halliday.