Craig Thomson to referee Hearts v Rangers

REFEREE Craig Thomson will be the man in charge when Scottish Championship leaders Hearts host second-placed Rangers at Tynecastle on Saturday.

Number one choice: Thomson is often considered to officiate the so-called "big games" in Scottish football
Number one choice: Thomson is often considered to officiate the so-called “big games” in Scottish football

CRAIG Thomson has been appointed as the referee for the table-topping Scottish Championship clash between Hearts and Rangers this weekend.

The 42-year-old will be the man in the middle when the first hosts second in the second-tier on Saturday in the televised lunchtime kick-off.

He will be assisted at Tynecastle by linesmen Willie Conquer and David McGeachie while Don Robertson has been assigned to fourth official duties.

Thomson was also in charge of the clash at Ibrox on the opening weekend of the season when Hearts snatched a dramatic 2-1 victory in stoppage time.

Overall, the Renfrewshire-based whistler has officiated 17 games across six different competitions so far this season.

He has brandished 70 yellow cards and his only red card was shown to Dundee striker Martin Boyle during his side’s League Cup defeat at Tayside rivals Dundee United in September.

It will be the fourth time he has dropped below the Scottish Premiership this term with his last match on 8 November also in the Championship – Queen of the South’s 3-0 win over Dumbarton at Palmerston Park.

His most high-profile game of the campaign was handling the Champions League group stage clash between Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad and holders Real Madrid at the start of last month.

Familiar face: Thomson has officiated Hearts and Rangers in many Edinburgh and Old Firm derbies in times gone by
Familiar face: Thomson has officiated Hearts and Rangers in many Edinburgh and Old Firm derbies in times gone by

For a number of years, Thomson has held the mantle of being Scotland’s leading match official but it is widely thought that he has now been overtaken in that respect by Willie Collum.

The solicitor is a vastly experienced referee with his promotion to a Category One official in Scotland coming in 2002 after just two years in the SFL and he was named on the Fifa list 12 months later.

Including last season’s Scottish Cup showpiece, he has overseen seven major competition finals in Scotland – which have involved both Hearts and Rangers on a number of occasions.

He also took charge of two meetings between the sides in Edinburgh in the past, including a 2-1 Rangers win in the SPL in August 2009 during which he sent off Gers midfielder Kevin Thomson after 13 minutes and later awarded the Ibrox side an injury-time penalty.

On the international scene, Thomson went to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine in 2012 but narrowly missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup finals.

Last term, he oversaw 39 games in all competitions, brandishing a massive 133 yellow cards and four reds and awarding eight penalties.

Saturday’s encounter will be screened live on BT Sport 2/HD with coverage starting at mid-day ahead of the 12:45 GMT kick-off.

Ally McCoist’s Rangers – who are one more promotion away from returning to the top-flight – are currently six points behind their opponents after last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Alloa.

Robbie Neilson’s Hearts are odds-on favourites to win the Championship having only dropped four points in their first 13 league matches.

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