Exclusive: Andy Halliday wants to finish his career at Hearts and reveals how he questioned what fans really wanted

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Tynecastle midfielder says he wants to play out the remainder of his days in Edinburgh.

It’s fair to say Andy Halliday gets Hearts. The passion, intensity, ambition and culture all resonated with the midfielder from the minute he strolled through the front door at Tynecastle Park three years ago. He simply doesn’t want to leave, despite some difficulties this season.

Halliday is 31 and contracted to Hearts until summer 2024. A sustained place in the starting line-up is something he is still competing for under interim manager Steven Naismith. What he won’t do is give up. Celtic visit Gorgie on Sunday with a chance to win the cinch Premiership title, but Hearts need points to fuel their pursuit of European football. It’s the sort of occasion Halliday relishes.

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“I’ve never hid from the fact that I’ve loved my time at Hearts,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I’m not naive enough to think I’ve got another seven or eight years at the top level, but I feel fit enough. There is no doubt I would love to finish my career at the club.

“I want to play at the highest level I can, play in Europe and compete in cups. We have brought that to Hearts and I think we can maintain it. It's up to me to stay consistent, perform when needed and secure any future I’ve got at the club.”

Hearts approach Sunday confidently after beating Ross County 6-1 with a ruthless display in their previous fixture. Celtic are a different proposition, however, especially with a title on the line. Naismith’s attacking ethos generated an enthusiastic response against the league’s bottom club, something which struck a chord with Halliday.

“I was told before I came to the club that Hearts fans really want two up front, fast-paced, attacking football, balls out wide and crossing into the box. You think: ‘Do they really? Are you just saying that?’ But you see the reaction against Ross County. That is what they’ve been used to for decades.

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“Celtic have been the most dominant side in Scotland for a period of time. Our games against them over the last two years have been really competitive, although we haven’t always got results. We have shown ourselves in good light apart from the last game against them at Tynecastle [a 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat in March].

Hearts midfielder Andy Halliday is ready to take on Celtic this weekend.Hearts midfielder Andy Halliday is ready to take on Celtic this weekend.
Hearts midfielder Andy Halliday is ready to take on Celtic this weekend.

“People think because it might decide the title that it would naturally give you an extra 10 per cent. For me, it really doesn't. Whether I’m playing a kickabout in training or a Scottish Cup final, you want to win. That doesn’t change whether Celtic can win the league this week or next week. The fact is: They’re going to win the league. The motivation for us is getting points for Hearts. These are five massive games and we want European football for the club again next year.”

Halliday was Naismith’s team-mate during his first season at Tynecastle, 2020/21, when Hearts won the Championship title and promotion back to the top flight. The latter then retired as a player and began coaching the Riccarton youth side. This season, he managed Hearts B team in the Lowland League before taking interim charge of the first team last month when Robbie Neilson was sacked.

Naismith is now tasked with overhauling a five-point gap to beat Aberdeen to third place in the Premiership. Halliday explained that drive and enthusiasm for the challenge will not be an issue. “I went to watch a few B team games and you can see he is as passionate as a coach as he was as a player. What you see is what you get with Naisy,” he said. “He has brought real clarity in the message on how we want to play and we’ve benefitted from hearing those new ideas in the last couple of weeks.

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“His passion might inspire some people but I’m a bit similar. I’d say it doesn’t allow anybody to coast or drop their levels because Naisy will be straight on them. The boys have enjoyed the ideas and the intensity of training. We were really on the front foot against Ross County and got rewarded, so in a short space of time you can see what he wants to put in place.”

For Halliday, the issue of how to get into the team and stay there remains. Naismith is not expected to make many changes for Sunday given Hearts’ swashbuckling aura against County, although there may be one or two. Halliday is content to wait for his opportunity and seize it when the time comes.

“I haven’t had any individual chats. I’m my own harshest critic and that will never change,” he stated. “I feel happy with my performances this season and I think I’ve been really consistent. I have played a number of positions again, which I don’t think will change either.

“This is a really competitive squad with quality throughout, so you can’t just be a six or seven out of ten every week. You probably need to be an eight to keep the jersey. I’ve had a run in the side at certain periods and I think that’s when I’ve shown my best form.

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“I pride myself on being ready whenever I’m ready and I will always be that way. Even though I have been in and out of the team, I’ve made 34 appearances this season. It's been a long campaign and I’ve been happy with my performances. I always put the team first so hopefully we can finish on a real high.”