Celtic v Rangers: Willie Collum to referee Old Firm derby

The Euro 2016 referee will be in the middle at Celtic Park for the first Old Firm derby in the league since April 2012.

Willie Collum referee (Motherwell v Celtic - 9th April 2016)
Renewing acquaintances: Collum will make his second trip to Celtic Park of 2016 but it will be the first time he encounters Rangers in this calendar year (Picture from Sky Sports)

EURO 2016 referee Willie Collum will take charge of his third Old Firm derby when Celtic welcome Rangers to Celtic Park this weekend.

The 37-year-old has been given the responsibility of keeping a lid on proceedings this Saturday lunchtime for the first league meeting between the fierce Glasgow rivals for four and a half years (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports 2).

He will be ably assisted by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross, with Kevin Clancy on electronic board duties as fourth official.

Collum, of Lanarkshire, will be in the middle for his eighth game in all competitions this season – and third in the Scottish Premiership.

His latest outing came last weekend in which he booked three players in world champions Germany’s 3-0 win over Norway in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Ross – who was one of his assistants in Oslo – is also involved in politics, as a Scottish Conservative councillor for Fochabers-Lhanbryde on Moray Council and Member of Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands.

Collum has kept a low-profile so far this season, issuing just two yellow cards apiece in both St Johnstone’s goalless draw with Aberdeen on the opening weekend and Hearts’ 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle on August 27.

But it will be difficult for the Glasgow-born whistler to stay out of the headlines as he prepares to handle the biggest game of the season so far and his third fixture involving the sides – all of which have come at Parkhead.

Collum endured an eventful Old Firm derby debut in October 2010 at the age of 31, as Rangers came from behind to win 3-1 – after which he received death threats.

Two of the five bookings came in the first five minutes and he awarded a controversial second-half penalty to the Gers when Kirk Broadfoot fell easily over Daniel Majstorovic, even though he appeared to have his back turned to the play at the time.

Then Celtic boss Neil Lennon was critical of him afterwards for making what he felt was “two big mistakes” which cost his team.

Collum then oversaw Celtic’s 1-0 victory at Parkhead in December 2011, for which his handling of what might have been a volatile game was roundly praised but Lee Wallace had a goal ruled out for Rangers which had actually crossed the line.

willie-collum-in-action-inverness-v-celtic-29th-november-2015
Modest record: Collum dished out 11 yellow cards in his two previous Old Firm derbies, which were not without major talking points (Picture from Sky Sports)

He encountered Celtic seven times last season – in their 2-0 win over Ross County on opening weekend, 3-1 win at Dundee United later in August, October’s 3-1 win against Aberdeen, a 3-1 success at Inverness in November, the 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final victory against Morton in March, April’s 2-1 win at Motherwell and their 2-1 defeat at St Johnstone in May.

During those games, Collum awarded three penalties to Celtic, whereas in contrast, he was in the middle for only three Rangers games in 2015-16 – but awarded the Gers a penalty in each one.

Collum – a part-time Religious Education teacher at a Bellshill primary school – was a late replacement for Craig Thomson to oversee Mark Warburton’s first game in charge in the 6-2 win over Hibernian in the Challenge Cup first round at Easter Road in July.

He was also in charge of their 4-0 win at Morton in September and 2-1 defeat at Falkirk in December, awarding a controversial spotkick for both sides in a decisive promotion battle at the Falkirk Stadium.

Warburton branded some of Collum’s decisions as “shocking” – referring to the penalty awarded to the hosts when Danny Wilson clearly brought down Will Vaulks outside the box, before Martyn Waghorn’s late penalty was saved after a perceived handball by Craig Alston.

Father-of-three Collum, who has been a Fifa referee since 2006, went to Euro 2016 as Scotland’s only representative for his first major international tournament as a referee and left filled with pride in his team’s performances.

Willie Collum in action
Understated: Collum performed well in both of his group-stage matches and kept out of the spotlight (Picture from ITV Sport)

He officiated Turkey’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and France’s 2-0 victory against Albania – brandishing eight yellow cards, no reds and awarding no penalties – before being sent home at the end of the group stages.

A notoriously card-happy Collum, who began refereeing in 1993, is no stranger to dealing with difficult situations and has a wealth of experience in so-called big games both domestically and across Europe.

He has been in charge of two Scottish Cup Finals in 2013 and 2015, the 2012 League Cup Final, two Premiership play-off second leg ties as well as receiving the honour of refereeing the 2015 Uefa Super Cup when Barcelona beat Sevilla 5-4 in Tbilisi.

But Collum was dropped from officiating Premiership fixtures for several weeks last season after a number of high-profile blunders, including two penalty incidents in Aberdeen’s 3-1 defeat at Inverness in February.

Craig Thomson has handled the last two meetings – Celtic’s 2-0 League Cup semi-final victory in February 2015 and Rangers’ win on penalties in last season’s Scottish Cup semi.

And, having yet to encounter either side this season, it was widely expected Collum – the only other referee with previous Old Firm experience among the current crop of officials – would be appointed to the first derby of the campaign.

As domestic action resumes this weekend after the international break, champions Celtic have played a game less but sit one point ahead of second-placed Rangers – who have won only one of their last seven trips to Celtic Park.

It will be Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers’s first taste of the Old Firm but, as he prepares to come up against Mark Warburton for the first time in the dugout, the Rangers boss tasted victory in a penalty shoot-out on his derby debut in the Scottish Cup in April.


REACTION:


ELSEWHERE…

The experienced Crawford Allan has been assigned to Aberdeen’s home match against Inverness later on Saturday.

You can view a full list of SPFL match official appointments here.

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