A chat with Andy Halliday in his early days as a Rangers player would have elicited a multitude of memories about the special days he had experienced courtesy of his boyhood club.
The garrulous 24-year-old would give chapter and verse about the overnight journey that meant he only arrived home two hours before sitting a 9am English exam after travelling to watch the club in the UEFA Cup final... glorying in Peter Lovenkrands’ last-minute headed winner in the 2002 Scottish Cup final... and practically growing up in the Copland Road stand as a season ticket holder there from the tender age of four.
However, as the midfielder prepares for his first major final for the club, upon which rests the opportunity to return a major honour and European football again to Ibrox for the first time in five years, the personal is subsumed by the professional. The focus on the task that lies ahead against Hibs in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden means it is all about what will happen on the pitch, not what he has known of such occasions from a seat looking down on it.
“I have been to a few finals but I don’t think any of them will mean quite as much to me as playing in one. As I said when I signed here I just want to be judged as a Rangers player. It is a massive occasion for me. There have been a lot of firsts this year: my first cup final [with the Petrofac Training Cup success], my first Old Firm game and now I am going to go for my first Scottish Cup final.
“But being a Rangers fans comes secondary. I am a Rangers player now and I have to conduct myself in a certain manner. I don’t think there is much point me in looking at past Rangers success. The club have a great history but all my focus is on next Saturday and writing my own history. There’s been many great Rangers cup wins but it is all about me as a player now and that’s how I want to be judged.
“There has been joy, heartbreak, every emotion under the sun with these in the past. I hope we are only experiencing a win because it’s such a massive fixture. In the Celtic semi-final we put everything into that game in 120 minutes to try and win and if we’d lost it on penalties it would have been a very sore one to kickback from. We managed to win but even then we had every emotion under the sun. It might be the same next Saturday but it’s something you’ve got to try and control and the final result is going to be the most important thing, but we are all looking forward to it.”
A certain detachment from his lifetime’s immersion in all things Rangers perhaps contributed to the composed and cultured display he was able to produce in the cauldron of the derby last month. There was no player cooler or more clinical in the penalty shoot-out. Teams need heart, but that must be guided by the head. Halliday provided a masterclass in such matters in the semi-final. It is thus far a high point in a first season under Mark Warburton in which all expectations could be exceeded if the Scottish Cup is added to the Championship and Petrofac.
“There had been a lot of questions in the run up to the semi about how I was going to handle it and I know there was a lot of people close to me worried about how I was come the day. But I felt so composed and so calm within myself and there was no way I was going to let the opportunity pass me by. Quite a lot of people say they struggle to enjoy an Old Firm occasion and you can see why, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
“I think I did really well to shut myself off and concentrate on the job in hand because it is very easy to get worked up and then end up burning nervous energy. That was the whole reason I was calm.”
In light of the fact that Halliday threw himself into the crowd after promotion was confirmed at Ibrox last month there isn’t a chance that any sense of calm could survive cup success on Saturday. Then the fan in Halliday would burst free again.