Andy Halliday: The interview Part 1

Last week we sat down with Andy Halliday and spoke to him about his Rangers career. Andy has done quite a few pods recently so we wanted to make it a bit different. So we asked Andy to pick out his favourite Rangers games from his time at the club. In part one of the blog, we cover his favourite games with Andy’s quotes and in part two we will do the same as Andy picked his Rangers eleven from the teammates he played with.

Hibernian 2 Rangers 6

There are difficult questions I get when it comes to Rangers but my favourite games for the club is probably one of the easiest questions. It will be very difficult to beat my Rangers debut for my favourite game. Like I have always said, it was all I wanted to do – to play for Rangers. It was the first chance I got to wear the shirt as a first team football player so that one will always be very difficult to beat. The magnitude of the game at the time and Hibs being our closest rivals for the Petrofac and the league championship, it was a good first game to go into at Easter Road.

Knowing that my friends and family were going to be in the crowd that day and being as proud as myself to play for Rangers for the first time. Our summer that year, there was quite a big turnover that summer in terms of the squad and personnel within the club, not just the staff but the players as well. We had only been working together as a full group for two or three weeks and I can only remember a couple of friendlies that we had, the last one being Burnley at Ibrox. Albeit we were in the Championship, I think that squad gelled together really quickly and that was all part of the style of play that the gaffer tried to implement early on. Because we had such a young, enthusiastic group, I thought we took to that really well and it was the best first game possible to showcase what we were trying to do.

Hibs had more than a few good results against Rangers the previous year so we knew they were a good team, but as far as we were concerned it was the perfect first game. You always get good games at Easter Road and a good atmosphere because there is sometimes a bit of distain between the clubs, but it was a fantastic first game to go into. I remember we never really started great, I think it was Stanton that scored from 20, 25 yards and it wasn’t really until we went 1-0 down that we took control of the game and hit them with two sucker punches just before half-time. I think it was Tav that got the equaliser from a free-kick and then Waggy scored not long after that. Going into half-time, we knew they were going to come out with a reaction and that we had to improve. The second half was total domination. I gave away a penalty so it wasn’t a great start in terms of my debut at that point but I made up for it five minutes later my scoring a goal on my debut. It was a dream come true.

Rangers 2 Celtic 2 (Rangers win on Pens)

That would probably be second. It was my first taste of an Old Firm game and I remember the build-up to the game there were definitely nerves there, and some anxious feelings. If you are being completely honest, as a professional you do take it a game at a time and if you have got a league game the week before Celtic then that is your focus. But nobody can tell me that they haven’t got one eye on the Old Firm game in two or three weeks’ time, because it is such a massive fixture, such a massive occasion and, as a football player, these are the games you want to have on your CV, these are the games you want to play in. As it was my first one, I certainly had one eye on the Old Firm game in a couple of weeks’ time. I remember telling my friends and family, because that was all they wanted to speak about, that I just didn’t want to speak about it. I didn’t want to burn too much nervous energy by talking about it and losing any kind of focus myself. I kept all my thoughts and chats to myself, so when the game came it would take care of itself. Don’t get me wrong, the build-up is extremely different to any other game and, don’t get me wrong, there were nerves there. But when the first whistle went, it is arguably the calmest I have felt within a game. It felt natural, I felt excited to play in it. Under Warburton, we had numerous good performances, especially in terms of the style of play we tried to implement, and I definitely think we caught Celtic by surprise. 

I think it showed at that period that it was the progress that the club needed. They had maybe stalled a bit the year before by not getting promoted from the Championship and it had been X amount of years since we had beaten our rivals. It showed a sign of progress that the club was dying for at the time and you saw how much it meant to the fans. It gave them the chance to have bragging rights over their fierce rivals for that game. One of my biggest memories of the game is thinking back to when I was younger and thinking if I win an Old Firm game how much I am going to celebrate that night. But three days later we had to go to Easter Road to try and put a bigger game between ourselves and Hibs for the league. It was a case of beating Celtic in the semi-final and being in training the next day and that was it and on again to the next game. That is extremely different to any other club that I played with. If you got a result of that magnitude, you can be sure there would be a few beers that night. 

Listen, don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty, plenty, better Rangers teams than that one. But I haven’t seen many Old Firm games where a Rangers team controlled it that well for a period of time, especially being the underdogs going into the game. There have been better Rangers teams than us, but on the day I felt as if that was one of our best performances under Warburton. Such was the style of play, where we demanded us to control possession and control the football, I think we showcased that very well that day, especially in the first half. I was so proud of the boys after the game. There were a lot of young players playing, they had never experienced an Old Firm game and Old Firm atmosphere and they took to it like a duck to water so I was extremely proud of them.

Rangers 1 Celtic 0

It was a real toss up between two to get into my top three favourites and it was either the Ufa game or the Old Firm at Ibrox. That one just pips it. On a personal level, having been part of a team that took a couple of doings against Celtic the year before and took a lot of criticism myself, I think it was a redemption season for me under Gerrard when he gave me what felt like a second chance to come back and play for Rangers. I was probably under a lot of pressure going into that game as an individual and it was the first Old Firm win in the league for an extremely long period of time. There were games the year before where there eight, nine, ten poor performances on the day. But I think that day there were 11 jerseys that more than matched them, that gave it their all and gave it their best performance. On a personal level, that game meant a lot to me in that I got Man of the Match and there were 50,000 singing my name so that was extremely special. I think that probably pips the Ufa one to get into the top three. 

In a high pressure game, it is always important to try and set the tone and lay down a marker and I think if any player gets an opportunity to do that then they are going to take it. I think that was my perfect moment within it, I could go in hard but fair and lay down a marker for the game. It is the crowd reaction and I know fans appreciate a good 50-50, especially early on in a derby game. It gets the fans up, gets them on your side. It wasn’t just the tackle, it was that we showed an intent early that we weren’t going to give Celtic any time on the ball. Celtic were a good team in possession, they like to have a lot of the ball. But we showed our intent extremely early that we weren’t going to give them time and they didn’t get into a rhythm. On the flip side, it allowed us to control the game. It was 1-0 on the day but it was a deserving victory. Celtic had one shot on target in the 90 minutes, which was extremely different to the games the previous year and, for myself, getting that block on Ntcham with ten minutes to go was special because it denied them a goal which would have been underserving. I remember Alfredo had a couple of good chances, Scott Arfield had a good chance as well at the start of the second half, Daniel Candeias had one saved, we had four or five set pieces that all lead to chances. It was a game we dominated. 

For those that want to hear Andy’s Podcast, all details are here

We hope you enjoy our interview and Andy’s words on his time at Rangers.

He lived our dream