Craig Thomson in charge of St Johnstone v Celtic

The experienced Paisley whistler is the referee for the champions’ Saturday lunchtime trip to McDiarmid Park.

Craig Thomson (Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi - 17th April 2016)
Vast: The former solicitor was promoted to a Category One official in 2002 after just two years in the SFL and was named on the Fifa list 12 months later (Picture from Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson will be the man in the middle for Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter against St Johnstone on Saturday.

The experienced 44-year-old has been assigned to his second successive lunchtime kick-off when the champions make the trip to McDiarmid Park (KO 12:15pm, live on BT Sport).

It will be his third match of the campaign – all in the top-flight – after Rangers’ 2-1 win at Dundee last weekend and Motherwell’s victory over Kilmarnock by the same scoreline on the opening day.

He has issued four yellow cards in each but opted not to send off Gers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence at Dens Park last time out – even Rangers boss Mark Warburton admitted another referee might have done so.

Thomson did, however, give Killie boss Lee Clark his marching orders after just 10 minutes the week before at Rugby Park on the advice of the fourth official.

He officiated 44 matches across eight competitions last season – brandishing 181 yellow cards, sending off eight players and awarding 19 penalties.

The Edinburgh-born whistler also handled Celtic’s second league game last term – booking six players during their 4-2 win over Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead.

He oversaw three other Hoops games in 2015-16 – their 2-1 defeat at Aberdeen in September, 5-0 win over Dundee United in October, and the 1-1 draw at Hamilton in February in which he controversially sent off Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata.

Thomson also handled both their domestic cup semi-final losses – dismissing Efe Ambrose early on in the 3-1 defeat to Ross County in the League Cup and keeping a lid on the thrilling Scottish Cup Old Firm clash as Rangers progressed on penalties.

Craig Thomson referee
Secondary: Thomson is no longer preferred to officiate the so-called “big games” in Scottish football, with Willie Collum considered the leading official (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Renfrewshire-based official also encountered St Johnstone seven times last season – including their 2-1 win over Motherwell 12 months ago, 3-1 League Cup quarter-final win at Morton and, most recently, the 3-0 win over Aberdeen in April.

He was also the man in charge of the Saints’ biggest game in their 132-year history when they beat Dundee United 2-0 at Celtic’s Parkhead in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final to clinch their first major trophy.

It’s one of three Scottish Cup Finals that Thomson has overseen as referee, as well as three Scottish League Cup Finals on his CV.

His vast experience as the longest-serving official amongst the current crop includes 16 games at Hampden Park, a number of play-off matches across the divisions, Champions League and Europa League games, international asssignments and selection to officiate at Euro 2012.

Thomson oversaw Celtic’s 1-0 victory at McDiarmid Park on Boxing Day in 2013 but has only handled two other league games between the sides.

He will be assisted on the day by David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny, with Andrew Dallas the fourth official.

Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic have not played in the league since their 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on the opening weekend after cancelling their fixture with home game against Partick Thistle to play in a friendly against Inter Milan, much to Alan Archibald’s dismay.

As the Hoops chase a sixth successive title this term, St Johnstone are looking to finish in the top-six for the sixth season in a row.

Tommy Wright’s men have started off the league campaign positively, with a goalless draw at home to Aberdeen and 2-1 win against Motherwell at Fir Park last Saturday.

You can view the rest of the weekend’s appointments here.

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