Hearts midfielder Andy Halliday takes injection to make the Scottish Cup final against Rangers
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The persistent problem hindered the midfielder last month and a jag was deemed the best solution. Halliday was only too happy to accept it with the final looming on the horizon.
Were Hearts not involved in the season-ending showpiece, he would simply have rested. Instead, he is in contention for tonight’s penultimate league game of the season at Motherwell.
“If it wasn’t for the final I’m sure the discussion would have been had with the medical staff and manager whether to get the injection,” said the 30-year-old former Rangers player.
“There was no chance I was going to miss out on a cup final, though. I’m delighted to get back out there not even just for the games but for training. As a player you miss being out there every day with your team-mates. Being in the gym on your own can be a lonely place.
“It’s been a frustrating period for myself. One of the things I’m always proud of is my availability, I’ve not had many injuries since I was a younger player. It’s the worst period as a footballer being injured and having to watch your team-mates go out and battle every week and try to get points.
“Thankfully it’s eight days since the injection now. I’m feeling pain-free, so it’s just about to trying and get back out there.”
There was never any undue concern that Halliday’s injury would force him to miss the final. He is the heavily-committed type of player who would probably still be wading into midfield exchanges even with his Achilles tendon hanging off. Fortunately, it’s nowhere near that bad.
“It wasn’t too much of a worry. It’s an injection I’ve had before so I know what the reaction and recovery time is,” he explained. “It was more that you don’t want to be getting injections every year or any time big games come along.
“It was about letting nature take its course and hopefully the injury would recover by itself. But there was still a little bit of pain there so I had to get the injection. Thankfully I’m now fit and ready to go.”
This is an especially timely juncture for any Hearts player to gain momentum and earn a place in the team for Hampden. Lifting the Scottish Cup would turn an excellent season into a historic one after a third-place Premiership finish secured European group-stage football for next season.
Halliday arrived at Tynecastle Park as a free agent just two years ago to help manager Robbie Neilson’s rebuilding project in the second tier of Scottish football. He insisted the stark upward trajectory followed by the club in the intervening period is not a surprise.
“No, and people might think I’m lying, but I’m certainly not. I even said it from the end of last season,” he stressed. “We got a lot of criticism and some deservedly so, but I always felt we had the nucleus of a squad that could be really good. We just had to recruit well and add to that and I think we’ve done that superbly.
“We’ve got competitive places within the squad and the beauty of football is I think we’ll go and strengthen again. Once you hit targets you want to set new targets and try to achieve them. I think we’re in a really strong position as a football club to continue to grow over the next few years.”
Good Hearts teams can be judged on league placings and European qualification. Great Hearts teams are judged on silverware, something Halliday does not need told. His Rangers history is well-documented but he is well-informed on maroon matters, too.
Sitting at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Sunday evening, he saw Hearts’ 2012 Scottish Cup-winning team inducted into the club’s official hall of fame for their achievements during that incredible campaign ten years ago.
Their feats act as an inspiration for the current generation. “It has to,” said Halliday. “It was 2012 and 2006, the last couple of times the club has won the Scottish Cup, so twice in 16 years. Obviously that’s good but it’s not where we believe we should be as a football club.
“We’ve spoken about it all season. We want to be competitive in any competition we’ve been in. We were disappointed to be knocked out early in the League Cup against, obviously, a good Celtic side, but in the Scottish Cup we’ve given a great account of ourselves.
“We lost it last year on penalties against Celtic and, as a squad, we know how much that hurt. We’ve got ourselves in a position to try and go there and do it again. We know how much it will mean to the fans and the football club, seeing what happened to the 2012 squad the other night.”
He might even indulge in a new tattoo of the famous old trophy if he leaves Hampden with a winner’s medal on the 21st.
“Maybe. It’s a cup I’ve been dying to win and not managed to do it yet,” admitted the midfielder. “It would certainly mean a lot to me. When you look back at the end of your career, you remember these big games you’ve been fortunate enough to play in, like European journeys.
“But a cup winner’s medal is something that has eluded me so far in my career and I’ll be delighted if I can win it here.”