CRAIG Thomson and Kevin Clancy have been confirmed as the referees for this weekend’s Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park.
Thomson will be in the middle for the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday (KO 14:05 BST).
Meanwhile, Clancy has been selected to officiate Premiership side Aberdeen against Championship outfit Greenock Morton on Saturday (KO 12:15 BST).
Both ties will be televised live on BT Sport.
The perennial Old Firm whistler…
It may be an unlucky number for some but Thomson will be hoping it will bring him some fortune as he prepares for his 13th Old Firm derby – no other referee has handled more than five.
His first derby came back in 2006 and he has since built up a wealth of experience in handling Scottish football’s most explosive duel in cup finals, crucial league encounters and, more recently, semi-final battles.
It will be the third season in a row the Fifa whistler, who went to Euro 2012, will manage a cup semi-final between the sides at the national stadium – after Celtic’s 2-0 League Cup win in 2015 and Rangers’ Scottish Cup win on penalties earlier this year.
David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny will assist Thomson, with Steven McLean taking the fourth official reins.
It was widely expected McLean or Bobby Madden might be entrusted with their first Old Firm derbies as Thomson and Willie Collum – who oversaw his third when Celtic thrashed Rangers 5-1 last month – are the only officials among the current crop to have previously refereed the fixture.
But, with a place in November’s Betfred Cup Final at stake, they have called on the vastly experienced Thomson to make the decisions for the latest meeting of Glasgow’s biggest rivals.
The former lawyer, from Renfrewshire, oversaw the League Cup final meeting between the sides in 2011 – awarding Rangers a penalty before reversing his decision and sending off Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre in an eventual 2-1 win for the Ibrox side.
Earlier this season, he was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 win at Dundee.
Meanwhile, a week later and also in front of the BT cameras, Thomson refused to co-operate with the broadcaster’s staff before starting the second half of Celtic’s 4-2 win at St Johnstone more than a minute ahead of schedule.
They are the only occasions Thomson, who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup Finals, has encountered either of the Old Firm sides this term.
The 44-year-old handled Copenhagen’s 4-0 win over Club Brugge in last month’s Champions League group match and the Netherlands’ 4-1 victory over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
But he has only refereed one previous League Cup tie this season – Aberdeen’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at Pittodrie in the quarter-finals.
Overall, Thomson has issued 51 yellow cards, sent off three players and awarded four penalties in 12 games across five different competitions so far this term.
Celtic fans have been particularly vocal on social media, expressing their disappointment that the Scottish FA have again looked towards Thomson to keep the peace in the Glasgow derby…
Another step in Clancy’s burgeoning reputation…
Despite several appearances as a fourth official and additional assistant, it will only be the second time Clancy steps out as referee at the national stadium.
The Glasgow-born whistler will still have fond memories of his previous visit after overseeing his first major final in last season’s League Cup showpiece, booking only two players as Ross County beat Hibernian 2-1.
He was also in the middle for Rangers’ shock 1-0 defeat by Raith Rovers in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final at Hibs’ Easter Road.
Surprisingly, it will be the 32-year-old’s first ever domestic cup semi as referee too – in this his fifth season officiating in Scotland’s top-flight.
Former lawyer Clancy has previously been the fourth official for the 2013 and 2015 League Cup Final – as well as Ross County’s 3-1 semi-final win over Celtic last term, which was refereed by Thomson.
He was also an additional assistant referee in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final at Celtic Park and Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi win over Celtic on penalties, as well as European games such as the 2015 Uefa Super Cup.
But the Renfrewshire-based official missed out on a place in Willie Collum’s team of officials for Euro 2016 last summer, with Bobby Madden and John Beaton selected for the role.
Clancy has encountered both sides once in league games this term – issuing seven yellows in Aberdeen’s goalless draw with Hearts in August and booking six players in Morton’s 2-1 victory over Dunfermline.
It will be his fifth League Cup tie of the campaign after Partick Thistle’s 1-0 win at Airdrieonians, Dundee’s 6-2 victory over Dumbarton, Alloa’s 1-0 success at Raith Rovers, and Celtic’s 5-0 win over Motherwell in the last 16 phase.
Overall, Clancy has brandished 54 yellow cards, sent off Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor in their 1-1 draw with Rangers in August, and pointed to the penalty spot three times in 13 matches in all competitions.
Clancy first took up the whistle in 2000 and was admitted to the Scottish FA five years later before overseeing his first SPL match in 2012.
Such was his fast progression, he was even recognised by Fifa – one of seven currently from Scotland on the list – before his promotion to the top-flight had been confirmed.
Among Clancy’s other high-profile appointments was the Championship play-off semi first leg between Hamilton Accies and Falkirk in 2014 and Queen’s Park’s League One play-off second leg win over Clyde last term.
At Hampden, he will be assisted by Alastair Mather and Gordon Crawford, while Euan Anderson will be on electronic board duties as fourth official.
2014 winners Aberdeen have complained about the scheduling of the tie, with the lunchtime kick-off not giving enough time for their travelling support to make the trip from the north east.