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Rangers Mark Warburton now a must for Manager of Year: Andy Halliday

By Andy Newport

Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday reckons boss Mark Warburton should be leading the race for the Manager of the Year award after masterminding Sunday's Old Firm triumph.

Gers dominated Celtic during a thrilling 2-2 draw at Hampden, eventually booking a place in the final of the William Hill Scottish Cup on penalties.

Ronny Deila's Ladbrokes Premiership leaders were firm favourites to see off the Ibrox men, but the Parkhead boss now finds his future cast in uncertainty following the dramatic derby encounter.

But, rather than worry about the Hoops, Halliday is focusing on the Championship winners, and believes Warburton should be recognised after he bravely chose to stick to the bold attacking ethos Rangers have utilised this season.

He said: "The one thing I will say about the gaffer is that he is a calming influence. He puts so much belief into his players and gives you that extra five or 10 per cent.

"He's a bit of everything in terms of his demeanour in the dressing room. He's calming but strict in the right areas. He has brought discipline to the club but we are all fighting for him out there.

"He's got to be a contender for Manager of the Year. If you look in the Championship, there is the gaffer, Alan Stubbs at Hibs and Peter Houston at Falkirk - those are the three managers who have had great seasons and a big influence. But the gaffer would get my vote.

"It's all credit to him and the staff, the progression we've had in the last 12 months."

Halliday, who bossed the midfield duel alongside colleagues Dom Ball and Barrie McKay, added: "Celtic have got top-class players. Scott Brown is the captain of the national team and has had a wonderful career.

"But we had complete belief in our ability. We wanted to do what we do best, keep hold of the football and try to penetrate in dangerous areas.

"There has arguably been better Rangers teams and better Rangers players in the past but I haven't seen as composed a display from a Rangers team in a long time.

"I thought we fully deserved the victory. It was a complete, dominant performance by Rangers."

Gers take on Hibernian in the May 21 final and can clinch a return ticket to European competition five years on from their last adventure if they beat Stubbs' side. And Halliday anticipates the good times are just around the corner for the Light Blues.

He said: "People keep saying the journey has ended now that we're back in the SPL - but really it's just beginning. We're going to go for a treble now and a place in Europe."

Halliday, brought up just a goal-kick away from Ibrox, said his first derby clash was extra special.

He helped dump Chelsea out of the FA Cup while playing for Bradford last season but insisted nothing compared to the Old Firm.

Up against Brown, many expected their head-to-head to produce fireworks, but the 24-year-old kept his composure as Rangers produced a display packed with pace and intensity.

"I tried to tap into a lot of Rangers players who have played in these games in the past and who have a lot of knowledge," he said. "I wanted to get as much advice as I could - but I don't think anything can prepare you.

"I spoke to Ian Durrant, Davie Weir, Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace. I also listened to people like John Brown who does RangersTV.

"It was my first one and it was a great start. It was probably the best day I've ever had on a football park. I was never worried about getting caught up in the emotion. I've had two red cards in my career and both were debatable, so I was never in any doubt.

"It was everything I expected of an Old Firm game. It was certainly noisy. It was a fixture we have all missed over these last four years.

"I read it was the most watched live sporting event since the Super Bowl, so that just shows the worldwide spectacle that it is. It was good to have it back."

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