An exile in South Caucasus at the start of the season, Andy Halliday intends to become a hero in Mount Florida by the end of it.
Few would have predicted Halliday having a major part to play in Rangers’ attempts to secure a major honour this season after being sidelined by Pedro Caixinha in the summer and sent out on loan to Azerbaiijan club Gamala.
It might still be too much to expect he will be pitched into the midfield battle in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic in view of the sporadic appearances he has made since his return from this unhappy spell.
But Halliday did all he could to force his way into manager Graeme Murty’s thinking in the half an hour he was on the field on Saturday. Having toiled to exert a hold in the midfield area against Neil McCann’s side, the hosts, given a slender lead through Kenny Miller’s first-half goal, almost immediately sprang to life following Halliday’s introduction for an ailing Greg Docherty. Rangers went onto score three further times.
That was not all to do with Halliday. After all, he would be the first to concede Dundee were the architects of their own downfall in the particular case of the third of Rangers’ four goals.
For some reason, defender Genseric Kusunga thought he had a lot more time than he did when accepting a short bye-kick by Elliott Parish on the edge of the box. Alfredo Morelos robbed him and Jamie Murphy applied the finish. With 78 minutes of the game gone, Dundee were down and out having shown enough spark in the first-half to suggest they might again take something from another game in Glasgow after drawing 0-0 against Celtic a few days earlier.
Halliday, pictured inset, helped ensure they didn’t. Now he is eyeing a place in the Rangers starting line-up against Celtic this weekend. Murty described Halliday as a “seasoned performer” afterwards. Such players are priceless on occasions like Sunday.
Halliday is one of only a few Rangers players with experience of overcoming Celtic, albeit on penalties at the same stage two years ago.
“It’s up to the manager – I have not played many games this year,” he said. “The disappointing thing for me is I was trying to get as many minutes as I could over the last few weeks.
“Unfortunately I did not manage to get on in a few of the games so it was important I showed what I could do when I came on (against Dundee).”
His eye-catching cameo on Saturday was his first top team appearance since against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup at the beginning of last month.
He was an unused substitute when Celtic defeated Rangers 3-2 at Ibrox the following week. He is clearly itching to contribute this weekend having been part of a Rangers success over Celtic at Hampden two years ago.
“I’ve had a couple of bad experiences against them as well!” he acknowledged. “It is a unique game of football. It is a special kind of atmosphere. All the experience you can get in these game you can use to your advantage.”
According to Halliday, a boyhood Rangers fan, a win would be payback to the fans for the hard times this season.
Although Rangers returned to second place on Saturday, and could still win the Scottish Cup, it’s been another trying campaign.
Halliday had already agreed to move to Azerbaijan by the time Rangers were eliminated from the Europa League following a 2-0 second leg defeat to Luxembourg’s Progres Niederkorn.
They have already lost twice to Celtic at home this season and were beaten four times by their old rivals during the last campaign.
“We owe the supporters,” said Halliday. “We have had a lot of disappointing memories in the Old Firm fixture in the last couple of years.
“We are confident if we can play to the highest of our ability we can get the result. But Celtic obviously go into the game as favourites.”