McLean and Thomson to ref League Cup semis

STEVEN McLean will referee Aberdeen’s Scottish League Cup semi-final with Dundee United on Saturday while Craig Thomson will be in the middle for next Sunday’s Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers

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

REFEREES Steven McLean and Craig Thomson will officiate next weekend’s 2015 QTS Group League Cup semi-finals.

McLean will be in the middle for the New Firm derby between holders Aberdeen and Dundee United on Saturday, January 31 (KO 15:00 GMT).

Thomson will take charge of the eagerly-anticipated Old Firm derby as Celtic host fierce Glaswegian rivals Rangers on Sunday, February 1 (KO 1:30 GMT) – which will be screened live on BBC One Scotland.

Both matches will be played at Hampden Park, which is back in use after reconstruction work to accommodate the staging of last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

Notable improvement: McLean's talkative but heavy handed approach has propelled him up the pecking order among Scotland's top referees
Notable improvement: McLean’s talkative but heavy handed approach has propelled him up the pecking order among Scotland’s top referees

FIFA official McLean oversaw last season’s final – the first major showpiece of his career – as Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen beat Inverness Caley Thistle on penalties at Celtic Park.

The Lanarkshire-based whistler also refereed a League Cup semi-final three seasons ago as eventual winners Kilmarnock beat neighbours Ayr United 1-0.

McLean – a qualified fitness instructor who is the brother of former Dundee United defender Brian – has taken control of 25 games in all competitions. He has given out 84 yellow cards, sent off four players and awarded five penalties.

His last Aberdeen assignment came in their 2-0 league win at St Mirren earlier this month and encountered United in their 2-1 victory over Celtic at Tannadice four days before Christmas.

Experienced: McLean (pictured in charge of the New Year Edinburgh derby earlier this month) was the fourth official for the 2013 League Cup semi between St Mirren and Celtic
Experienced: McLean (pictured in charge of the New Year Edinburgh derby earlier this month) was the fourth official for the 2013 League Cup semi between St Mirren and Celtic

The 33-year-old will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Andrew McWilliam while the fourth official will be Bobby Madden.

Thomson, 42, has a wealth of experience in handling Old Firm derbies having previously officiated 10 Celtic-Rangers matches with the first coming in April 2006.

Those past encounters include the 2011 League Cup Final at the national stadium in which the Paisley lawyer dismissed Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre for a professional foul and overturned a penalty given to the Gers, who won 2-1 after extra time.

The Edinburgh-born official has overseen three League Cup finals and last season took charge of his third Scottish Cup final when St Johnstone beat Tayside adversaries Dundee United 2-0 at Celtic Park.

It will be a fifth League Cup semi-final appointment in total for Thomson, who will be at the helm for a sixth Celtic match already this term and his third involving Rangers having overseen both of their Scottish Championship meetings with league leaders Hearts.

He will be assisted by linesmen Graham Chambers and David McGeachie while Calum Murray – the Category One official himself a veteran of such Old Firm meetings – has been assigned to electronic board duties.

Preference: Thomson - who has been selected over fellow leading referee Willie Collum - last took charge of an Old Firm derby at Ibrox in the SPL in September 2011
Preference: Thomson – who has been selected over fellow leading referee Willie Collum – last took charge of an Old Firm derby at Ibrox in the SPL in September 2011

Celtic and Rangers will lock horns for the first time since April 2012 when the Hoops ran out 3-0 winners in the Scottish Premier League before the Gers were expelled to the fourth tier of Scottish football because of their financial situation.

Ronny Deila’s Scottish Premiership leaders and defending champions currently sit three points clear of second-placed Aberdeen with a game in hand with Dundee United two places and three points further behind the Dons.

Rangers – under the stewardship of caretaker boss Kenny McDowall – are 13 points adrift of Hearts in the race for automatic promotion from the second tier although their last two games have been abandoned and postponed respectively because of the inclement winter weather.

Twelve months ago, the two League Cup semi-finals – in which Inverness beat Hearts on spotkicks after a 2-2 draw and Aberdeen thrashed St Johnstone 4-0 – were refereed by John Beaton and Bobby Madden.

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