REFEREE Willie Collum will take charge when Celtic start the defence of their Scottish Premiership title against Ross County this weekend.
The 36-year-old will be in the middle for the first game of the new 2015-16 Ladbrokes Premiership campaign this Saturday lunchtime in Glasgow (KO 12:45pm, live on Sky Sports 1).
He will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Alan Mulvanny while the fourth official will be Stephen Finnie at Celtic Park, where the championship flag will be raised before kick-off.
Glasgow-born Collum – a father to three daughters and Religious Education teacher from Belshill – is already enduring a busy start to the new season.
He stood in as a late replacement for Craig Thomson at Easter Road on Saturday to referee the Petrofac Training Cup 1st round tie between Hibernian and Rangers – handing out four yellow cards and awarding Hibs a spotkick in their emphatic 6-2 defeat.
Just 24 hours later, Collum was back in the middle for a pre-season friendly at Tynecastle between Hearts and Everton and infuriated the hosts after awarding the visitors, who went onto win 3-1, the first of two spotkicks for an apparent handball on the goalline by Alim Ozturk.
On Wednesday, the Uefa Elite Category official will take charge of Ajax’s trip to Austrian side Rapid Vienna in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round clash.
Earlier this month, Collum was confirmed as the man in charge for the prestigious European curtain-raiser between La Liga rivals Barcelona and Sevilla in the Uefa Super Cup in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on August 11.
He oversaw five Celtic games in all competitions last term – Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup ties against Hearts, league games at home to Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle as well as their 3-0 win at Dundee United in April when he awarded the Hoops a dubious penalty.
Collum encountered Ross County four times in the Premiership – the first when he sent off their defender Uros Celcer and gave Hamilton two penalties in a 4-0 defeat at New Douglas Park in August, followed by incident-free games against Aberdeen and Motherwell before their 3-0 win at 10-man St Mirren in April.
Domestically, the Lanarkshire whistler was in charge of the 2012 League Cup Final at Hampden Park when Celtic surprisingly lost to Kilmarnock, the 2013 Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Celtic before returning at the end of last term for the 2015 Scottish Cup showpiece as Inverness beat 10-man Falkirk.
As well as officiating several cup semi-finals, he was also on fourth official duties for the 2011 League Cup Final and 2012 Scottish Cup Final.
Last season, he issued a massive 144 yellow cards, sent off 17 players and awarded 22 penalties across 49 games in all competitions.
Collum is widely renowned for issuing plenty of cards in domestic games – despite his reluctance to do so in European outings – and is often the centre of controversy but is regarded as a fit and highly rated official who tends to get the big decisions right.
But there will be a sense of deja vu for Collum, who was also in charge of a 2-1 Celtic win over Ross County on the opening day two years ago in an evening kick-off at Parkhead.
Indeed, the Hoops are seeking to win their opening league fixture for the eighth successive season as they launch their quest for five titles in a row for the first time since the 1970s.
ELSEWHERE THIS WEEKEND….
On Saturday, Bobby Madden will oversee Kilmarnock’s opener against Dundee at Rugby Park, Brian Colvin is the referee for Hamilton v Partick Thistle and Inverness’s clash with Motherwell in the Highlands will be officiated by Crawford Allan.
On Sunday, promoted Hearts’ opener against St Johnstone at Tynecastle in the lunchtime kick-off (12:30pm, live on BT Sport 1) will be refereed by Steven McLean.
Later in the day, Kevin Clancy has been assigned to the New Firm derby between Dundee United and Aberdeen at Tannadice (KO 3:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
Clancy will also be on Europa League duty in the Netherlands on Thursday night for the third qualifying round first leg match between AZ Alkmaar and Istanbul BB.