ANDY HALLIDAY admits his transformation from teenage forward to promising defender has significantly improved the chances of him staying at Middlesbrough beyond this season.

The contract he signed as an 18-year-old in May 2010 is due to expire this summer when he will be able to move on as a free agent, although compensation will be due to Boro because he is under the age of 24.

Rangers, who Halliday has supported from an early age, are keen to lure him back across the border, but Tony Mowbray, the Middlesbrough manager, has already indicated he is keen to extend the player’s stay on Teesside.

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Halliday, who is now considered more of a leftback than a winger, is enjoying a new lease of life at the Riverside and is interested in staying beyond his existing deal. He will not, though, be rushing into any decision that does not feel right.

“It’s been a long time in coming, I have been wanting to play football and I have started to get some games,”

said the 21-year-old. “If you had asked me at the start of the season (if I’m happy to stay) it might have been a harder question to answer.

“But I am really enjoying my football right now. These things, contract situations, take a lot of time, I don’t think I have anything to worry about. There’s no rush. It’s the happiest I have been since I joined and it’s the most I have enjoyed my football since I started here.”

When Gordon Strachan persuaded him to move to the North-East from Livingston in a £100,000 deal he was desperate for the chance to shine in the Championship after making a name for himself in the Scottish league.

But he found it hard to settle initially, having to come to terms with a complete change to his lifestyle.

Rather than have his family and friends around him he suddenly had to stand on his own two feet, both financially and domestically.

That meant learning how to cook. He said: “I’m Gordon Ramsay now! Far from it. I did have to learn, that’s what I was doing at the beginning, cooking for the first time.

“It’s pretty much the basics I’m good at. It’s the healthy ones that count – I can do my steak, chicken, veg, that’s all that matters.

“I’m enjoying Teesside. I have settled in now down here and I’m not thinking about going anywhere. We will see. I am really enjoying my football.

“The missing part of the jigsaw for me down here was playing games, and I have been doing that quite a bit so I can’t really ask for more. I still don’t think anyone will be rushing round mine for tea mind!”

Halliday’s attitude in training has hugely impressed the coaching staff at Rockliffe Park. Rather than become frustrated with a lack of action as a forward, he is now a strong contender to start matches as a leftback.

Against Hastings United on Saturday he even started as part of a three-man central defence. Not only did he turn in a solid performance defensively, he converted Luke Williams’ corner shortly after halftime to help Middlesbrough to a 4-1 win.

It was Halliday’s first goal since scoring and setting two up at Ipswich in April 2011 – and the Scotsman wonders if playing in defence is a sign of things to come for him in the long-term.

“It was my first game as a centre-back in football, ever, against Hastings,” he said.

“To have scored playing there means I’ve got a 100 per cent record in scoring, maybe it is a good omen!

“I have got to give the coaching staff a bit of credit really because they have seen the attributes in me to think that I could play at the back. There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of versatility in your game.

“I’m not going to say I am a centre-half, but it is another game under my belt, another 90 minutes, which is what I wanted at the start of the season. I will not be moaning.”