Andy Halliday thought he had seen another season go by without domestic silverware when he sat on the bench at Tynecastle and watched Rangers lose to Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals.
The February 29 defeat was widely regarded to have ended Rangers’ domestic season and the campaign was literally over quicker than anyone could have foreseen.
Unbeknown to him, Halliday had already played his last game for his boyhood heroes but he now gets the chance to play in the semi-finals after all as he prepares to take on Hibernian with Hearts.
The midfielder left Rangers with Championship and Challenge Cup winners’ medals but not the silverware he had been aiming for when he joined in 2015.
He came close, scoring in the 2016 Scottish Cup final only for Rangers to let slip a lead against Hibernian late on.
Halliday had helped Rangers beat Celtic in the semi-finals that season but thereafter major occasions at Hampden ended in disappointment including a number of derby defeats.
The 29-year-old is not the type to look back at those disappointments as he prepares to return to Hampden but he remains determined to win a major piece of silverware.
“I’ve had disappointments in league games, training games,” he said. “Whatever sport I play, whatever competition I play, I want to win.
“I’ve had highs, I’ve had lows, I’ve been proud of my career so far, but of course I would like by the end of my career to win what I feel is a major honour in Scotland. I don’t feel as if I have done that yet.
“Of course from now to the end of my career I am hopeful I can do that. It’s going to be a tough ask but I certainly feel with the quality we have got in our squad, we are capable.”
Halliday, who has played three times for Hearts, added: “I’m one of the lucky ones because Hearts put me out last year with Rangers so it’s a bonus that I get a bye straight into the semi-final.
“It would mean a lot to win. It would mean a lot for myself, it would mean a lot for the players, it would mean a lot for the club.
“You play any game, you want to win, but obviously a cup semi-final and a derby has that little bit more importance.
“I have been part of a Scottish Cup final in the past and, albeit it was disappointment that day, it’s an occasion I would love to get back to and have another go at it.
“It’s going to be difficult, there’s good teams in the competition and we are facing a good team on Saturday but we have a lot of belief in our ability.”
Halliday believes Hearts have the experience to adapt to the unusual derby surroundings at an empty Hampden.
“It’s a prestige derby, one of the biggest derbies in the country,” he said. “You watch it and a lot of the time it’s hustle and bustle, it’s high-tempo, it’s tackles. What you’d expect in a Scottish derby I suppose.
“But that’s something I have noticed in quite a lot of games without fans, there’s that period of flatness where it doesn’t have quite that competitive feel as it would if the fans are in there.
“As players that’s something you try and instil in yourself before the game and realise how big an occasion it is.
“It’s up to us as players to bring that intensity to the game because it is difficult without fans. The first 15-20 minutes is especially important.”