BOBBY Madden has been confirmed as the referee for Celtic’s televised Scottish Premiership encounter with Hearts on Saturday.
The 37-year-old will oversee the first top-flight game since the international break when the leaders host the third-placed side in the lunchtime kick-off (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Graham Chambers and Graeme Leslie, while Nick Walsh is the fourth official at Celtic Park.
Lanarkshire-based Madden will take charge of his fourth Celtic game of the season and his seventh involving Hearts.
He was in the middle for the champions’ goalless draw with Kilmarnock in November and 2-1 defeat by Motherwell in December – both at home – as well as their 4-1 win at bottom-club Dundee United in January.
Meanwhile, Madden has handled Hearts’ 2-1 win at Ross County in August, 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen in September, 2-0 win over Hamilton in November, 3-2 win over Dundee United in December, goalless draw at Hamilton in January and 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle on March 5.
Overall, he has overseen 31 games in all competitions so far this season – issuing 107 yellow cards, sent off nine players and awarded nine penalties.
It will be the first time Madden will take charge of a fixture between the two sides who have enjoyed a long-running Scottish football feud in what is always an eagerly-awaited fixture on the calendar.
The previous three encounters this term – two draws in the league and Celtic’s League Cup win at Tynecastle in October – were officiated by fellow Fifa officials Steven McLean, John Beaton and Kevin Clancy.
Madden’s most recent appointment was in the top-flight in the Highland derby a fortnight ago as he handed out four bookings in Inverness’s 3-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall.
Last month, the East Kilbride-born official was named as an additional assistant referee as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for the Euro 2016 tournament in France in the summer.
It’s been a busy campaign for Madden, who has received 18 Premiership matches and is in contention for a third domestic cup semi-final of his career in the Scottish Cup in April.
His season highlights include five Europa League matches, a Euro 2016 qualifier between Russia and Liechtenstein, and the Petrofac Training Cup semi-final between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox.
His biggest achievement to date came a year ago when receiving the honour of officiating his first major final in the League Cup at Hampden Park and sent off Dundee United captain Sean Dillon in their 2-0 defeat by Celtic.
Madden has also handled Premiership play-off final first leg ties in each of the last two seasons.
Domestically, he was promoted to Category One in 2009 and has built up a wealth of experience and respect to become a Scottish top-flight regular since his first match in January 2011.
Madden first took up the whistle in 2002 and last year revealed that an advert in the East Kilbride News – spotted by his brother Jamie – inspired him to become involved in refereeing after realising he wouldn’t make the grade as a professional player.
Hearts would move to within six points of second-placed Aberdeen if head coach Robbie Neilson can mastermind a first win over the Hoops since the Jambos won 2-1 in April 2012 at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup semis.
Ronny Deila’s Celtic – closing in on a fifth successive title – could go seven points clear at the top with a third straight league win before the Dons host Hamilton on Sunday.
That game at Pittodrie will be officiated by Kevin Clancy, who will also be in the middle for Celtic’s match at Dundee next Tuesday night – both will be screened live on BT Sport.
Meanwhile, Don Robertson will handle Partick Thistle’s home game with Kilmarnock as eighth welcomes 11th to Firhill on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
Elsewhere, Euro 2016-bound Collum will oversee a Premiership game for the third successive round of fixtures after missing three weekends to be taken out of the spotlight following a series of controversial decisions.
He will be in the middle for St Johnstone against Dundee United on Saturday and then Hearts’ trip to Inverness on Tuesday night.