SPFL 2018/19: Referee appointments for opening weekend

Kevin Clancy will referee Rangers’ Premiership clash with Aberdeen at Pittodrie and Nick Walsh will handle Celtic’s flag-day meeting with newly-promoted Livingston at Celtic Park.

Referee Kevin Clancy
Deja vu: Clancy also took charge of a live TV game on the opening weekend last season, as Celtic beat Hearts 4-1 at Celtic Park (Picture from Sky Sports)

The match official appointments for the opening weekend of the 2018/19 Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) season have been revealed.

Last season’s Scottish Cup final referee Kevin Clancy will take charge of Sunday’s televised Premiership clash between Aberdeen and Rangers as new Gers boss Steven Gerrard oversees his first league game, at Pittodrie in front of the Sky Sports cameras (kick-off 13:00 BST).

Nick Walsh will be in the middle for champions Celtic’s encounter with newly-promoted Livingston on Saturday at Celtic Park, where the title-winning flag will be unfurled before the 15:00 BST kick-off.

Referee Nick Walsh
Record: Celtic haven’t lost any of their six previous games Walsh has refereed, winning five and drawing one (Picture from Sky Sports)

Elsewhere, fellow newly-promoted side St Mirren’s home match against Dundee will be officiated by Alan Muir.

Bobby Madden will handle the top-flight tie between Hibernian and Motherwell at Easter Road (kick-off 15:00 BST) – as he did when the sides met on the opening weekend at the same venue on 2013.

John Beaton will referee Kilmarnock against St Johnstone at Rugby Park and Andrew Dallas has been appointed to Hearts’ trip to Hamilton Academical.

Referee Alan Muir
Experienced: 43-year-old Muir has handled more than 300 professional games in Scotland across all competitions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, Fifa officials Craig Thomson, Willie Collum and Steven McLean have been handed Championship games on the first weekend.

Thomson will take charge as Ayr, who were promoted to the second tier as League One champions last term, welcome relegated Partick Thistle to Somerset Park.

Collum will be in the middle at Tannadice when Dundee United kick off their second season in the second tier at home to Dunfermline Athletic, with McLean on duty at the Falkirk Stadium for Falkirk’s clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Referee Willie Collum
Man in charge: Collum has handled three Betfred Cup ties including Hearts’ 5-0 win over Inverness last weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

Here are the full list of appointments as the 2018/19 campaign gets under way…


SATURDAY 4 AUGUST 2018

Scottish Premiership

Celtic v Livingston
3pm kick-off at Celtic Park
Referee: Nick Walsh
Assistants: Dougie Potter and Andy Milne
Fourth official: David Munro

Hamilton Academical v Hearts
3pm kick-off at New Douglas Park
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Assistants: Stuart Stevenson and Daniel McFarlane
Fourth official: John McKendrick

Hibernian v Motherwell
3pm kick-off at Easter Road
Referee: Bobby Madden
Assistants: Jordan Stokoe and David Doig
Fourth official: Gavin Duncan

Kilmarnock v St Johnstone
3pm kick-off at Rugby Park
Referee: John Beaton
Assistants: Alastair Mather and Sean Carr
Fourth official: Euan Anderson

St Mirren v Dundee
3pm kick-off at the Simple Digital Arena
Referee: Alan Muir
Assistants: Paul O’Neill and Michael Banks
Fourth official: Steven Kirkland

Scottish Championship

Ayr United v Partick Thistle
3pm kick-off at Somerset Park
Referee: Craig Thomson
Assistants: Calum Spence and Daniel Graves

Dundee United v Dunfermline Athletic
3pm kick-off at Tannadice
Referee: Willie Collum
Assistants: Drew Kirkland and Alan Macfadyen

Falkirk v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
3pm kick-off at The Falkirk Stadium
Referee: Steven McLean
Assistants: Ralph Gordon and Craig Ferguson

Greenock Morton v Queen of the South
3pm kick-off at Cappielow
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Assistants: Andrew McWilliam and Kevin McElhinney

Ross County v Alloa Athletic
3pm kick-off at The Global Energy Stadium
Referee: Mike Roncone
Assistants: Frank Connor and Jonathan Bell

Scottish League One

East Fife v Dumbarton
3pm kick-off at Bayview Stadium
Referee: Grant Irvine
Assistants: Joseph Lawson and George Calder

Forfar Athletic v Airdrieonians
3pm kick-off at Station Park
Referee: Graham Beaton
Assistants: Graham Chambers and Robert Thomson

Montrose v Arbroath
3pm kick-off at Links Park
Referee: Alan Newlands
Assistants: Gordon Crawford and Ryan Oliver

Stenhousemuir v Brechin City
3pm kick-off at Ochilview Park
Referee: Barry Cook
Assistants: David Roome and Mark McHendry

Stranraer v Raith Rovers
3pm kick-off at Stair Park
Referee: David Lowe
Assistants: Gary Hilland and Craig King


SUNDAY 5 AUGUST 2018

Scottish Premiership

Aberdeen v Rangers
1pm kick-off at Pittodrie – live on Sky Sports
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Assistants: David McGeachie and Graeme Stewart
Fourth official: Don Robertson

Opinion: Andrew Dallas can be Scotland’s best referee

Why Andrew Dallas has the potential, in time, to be Scottish football’s leading referee – just like his father more than a decade ago.

Referee Andrew Dallas
Target: Dallas has been lambasted by fans, pundits and managers for his decision-making for many years (Picture from BBC Scotland)

As far as the limelight in Scottish football is concerned, referee Andrew Dallas isn’t normally too far away from the headlines – for one reason or another.

He has been the subject of ridicule and constant criticism since taking up the whistle in 2012/13, particularly when stepping up to the unforgiving environment of the Scottish Premiership at the start of the 2014/15 season.

It would be fair to say it has sometimes been warranted but too often it has gone too far, although not quite to the level experienced by his colleague Willie Collum, who received death threats after awarding a controversial penalty in an Old Firm match in 2010.

Dallas has often been too brash and almost tried too hard to get himself noticed but has come a long way since being branded ‘devious and manipulative’ by Kenny Shiels in 2013 and ‘not ready’ to officiate in the top flight by John Hughes in 2015.

Mistakes are part and parcel of the game and a referee’s development. Like any official, he has had his fair share.

Referee Andrew Dallas
Top flight: Dallas has handled more than 50 Premiership games since his promotion in 2014 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Dallas wrongly booked Hearts midfielder Malaury Martin, thinking he had tripped Motherwell’s Louis Moult, when in fact the striker had fallen over his own team-mate Lionel Ainsworth in a Premiership clash at Tynecastle in February 2017. In fairness, he later rang then Hearts boss Ian Cathro to apologise for the error.

Back in August, Partick Thistle boss Alan Archibald was left in doubt that Dallas should have awarded a last-minute penalty for his side, who were trailing 1-0 to Celtic in the Glasgow derby at Firhill when Nir Bitton appeared to impede Miles Storey in the box.

More recently, he gave St Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon his marching orders for a second bookable offence in their 1-0 defeat at Hearts – a decision which was branded ‘ridiculous’ by Saints boss Tommy Wright, who appears to have his own vendetta against Dallas.

“Same old, same old with that same referee,” Wright told BBC Scotland after the game. “I have been [disappointed] most of the times I’ve had him. I have probably spoken to [SFA Head of Referee Operations] John Fleming more about Andrew Dallas than any referee. Nothing seems to change.”

He has been under-fire and naturally took time to adapt to the rigours of the rough and tumble of Premiership football but has come on leaps and downs, in the last 12 months alone.

Earlier this month, Dallas was slammed on social media for disallowing an early goal for Motherwell in their Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Hearts but, by the letter of the law, which the referees know inside out, he was spot on as Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin had the ball within his grasp – even if it was just with one hand.

He was also right to award Hearts a penalty after Cedric Kipre wiped out Steven Naismith and ignore appeals for a second spotkick for Craig Levein’s side late on for handball after the ball struck Andy Rose, but it wasn’t intentional. Getting the big calls right is the main thing that should be expected of a referee and he did that in the important tie at Fir Park.

His appointment to the second major domestic showpiece of the season – the Challenge Cup final between Dumbarton and Inverness Caley Thistle – was fully merited and will no doubt be the first final of many for the 35-year-old during his career.

Although it’s the least glamorous trophy of them all, it was still a big occasion for the two Championship clubs that he knew well, at a ground he has become accustomed to refereeing at in St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park.

Proud moment: Dallas lined up alongside assistants David Roome and Daniel McFarlane ahead of his first major final (Picture from BBC ALBA)

He put in a solid display overall and stayed under the radar – issuing five yellow cards and correctly awarding Inverness a late penalty for handball by Dumbarton left-back Chris McLaughlin, which Iain Vigurs had saved by Sons stopper Scott Gallacher before Carl Tremarco spared his team-mate’s blushes with a last-gasp winner.

Being awarded the final of the competition which is primarily for Championship, League One and League Two clubs in Scotland acted as a springboard in the successful careers of fellow officials Craig Thomson and Calum Murray, to name but two.

Despite some boos ringing around the ground as he stepped up to collect his medal after the game, Dallas could be happy of his performance and undoubtedly his father Hugh would have been proud of his display as he watched on from the stands.

Dallas has the shadow of his dad – the last Scotsman to go to a World Cup who spent 15 years officiating in Scotland before hanging up his whistle in 2005 – to contend with and there are always going to be comparisons drawn between them.

Roles: Dallas acted as a referee observer for the SPL and then UEFA after retiring as a referee (Picture from Zimbio.co.uk)

But he has spoken in the past about how his old man has been “invaluable” to him and he was the one who suggested that he took up the whistle in the first place. Claims that he has progressed as far as he has to date because of his father’s stature are also unfair, because he has reached the highest level on merit through his own hard work and determination.

Dallas has already demonstrated his capabilities and didn’t get fast-tracked on to the Fifa list in January 2015 for no reason.

2017/18 really has been a breakthrough campaign for the promising official, who has handled matches in the Europa League, a 2018 World Cup qualifier, a Champions League qualifier and numerous European youth games.

Closer to home, he’s been trusted with some key top-flight matches – including an Edinburgh derby debut in October, Rangers’ 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Ibrox in November and Hibernian’s 2-0 victory over the Dons in another significant contest in the battle to finish the best of the rest behind Celtic.

It is evident that the Scottish Football Association are fully behind Dallas, who is not afraid to give big decisions and generally stays calm under intense pressure – even on the big stage.

With Collum and Thomson out in front as Scotland’s leading officials, Dallas has some way to go to join the elite but the signs are there that he can at least be third in line for high-profile games on the domestic front and even go on to follow the footsteps of the pair – and his father before them – on the European and international scene.

He has already reaped the benefits of working closely with Collum, who he has regularly trained with, and being coached by fellow Fifa whistler Steven McLean.

“They’ve been fantastic in offering advice and encouragement and they’re always available for a chat about decisions and incidents from matches,” Dallas once said in an interview.

Referee Andrew Dallas in action
On the way up: Dallas has rapidly risen through the ranks but still has work to do to reach the levels his father Hugh did during his distinguished career (Picture from Sky Sports)

He got a bird’s eye view of Collum’s excellent display in Celtic’s 3-2 win over Rangers at Ibrox as the fourth official – a selective appointment made with careful consideration.

Selecting him to carry out electronic board duties undoubtedly had the near future in mind and suggests an Old Firm derby debut in the middle isn’t too far away, particularly as he’s the last of the seven Fifa referees to get a first taste of one of world football’s fiercest rivalries.

It could happen as early as next month in the Scottish Cup semi-final showdown at Hampden Park but it’s more likely to be a more experienced official in charge given the magnitude of the occasion.

Last May, former top-flight referee Charlie Richmond expressed his belief that Dallas is under more pressure to perform than some of his colleagues because of his father and still had plenty to prove.

“If he is to avoid having the mud slung at him, he has to cut out the big mistakes because they are becoming too regular,” he wrote in his Daily Record column.

This season has been one of real progress for Dallas, who has learned a lot and proven he’s not just a rookie and gaffe-prone referee but can handle matches at a high level.

He still has hurdles to climb over but, with age on his side and advice readily on hand in the form of his old man, he has the potential to be the cream of the crop – if fans and pundits alike can cut him some slack and let him develop.

POLL: Have your say about Andrew Dallas by casting your vote below…

What to look out for in the SPFL this weekend

From new faces and milestones to promotion bids and solid defences, here are six things to keep an eye on during the Scottish football weekend.

Following an extended period to recharge the batteries during the winter break, the Scottish football season is back in full swing once again.

There has already been plenty happening – from thrills and spills in the Scottish Cup to transfer dealings galore as managers look to boost their squads before next week’s deadline.

It’s already been a big start to the final weekend of action in January after St Mirren moved 11 points clear at the top of the Championship after beating fellow promotion challengers Dunfermline 2-1 at East End Park on Friday night.

Here are five more things to keep an eye on across the divisions…

TON UP FOR RODGERS

Formidable: Rodgers has won 72 of his previous 99 matches in all competitions as Celtic manager since joining in the summer of 2016

Records have been tumbling since Brendan Rodgers arrived at Parkhead and on Saturday the Celtic boss will reach a significant landmark as he takes charge of the champions for the 100th time in a competitive match.

The Northern Irishman will be desperate to mark the milestone with a victory but it promises to be a tough afternoon for the Scottish Premiership leaders against a Hibernian side who have found their feet back in the top-flight upon their return this season.

On his latest return to the East End of Glasgow, Neil Lennon will be desperate to spoil the occasion for his opposite number Rodgers, who has been very complimentary of the former Celtic player and manager this week by claiming he would be a good choice for the next Scotland boss.

Fourth-placed Hibs have already taken points off Celtic twice in the league this season in successive 2-2 draws and ran them close in the League Cup semi-final, so the Hoops will have to be at their best to give their manager a performance and result that he can be proud of as he reaches the century mark.


SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE AT TYNECASTLE

Impregnable: Hearts fans have seen their side keep eight successive clean sheets – a run which started with a 1-0 home win over Motherwell last month

An intriguing contest is in prospect in Gorgie as Hearts and Motherwell, two of the in-form teams in the division, go head to head.

Both sides are adjacent in the top half of the table – sitting fifth and sixth respectively – and are yet to lose a game or concede a goal so far in 2018.

That could stay the same, of course, should the game end goalless but, the way the teams have been playing of late, a stalemate would be a long shot.

Craig Levein’s Jambos will be marginal favourites given their formidable run of late, as they look to extend their unbeaten league run to 11 games, and the fact they have won their last four home league matches against Motherwell without a conceding a goal.

Stephen Robinson’s Steelmen have begun the new year with back-to-back 2-0 victories at Fir Park and, despite missing some key players, will be confident of extending their good start in their first away trip of 2018 as they look to consolidate their place in the top six.

Winger Danny Amankwaa could make his Hearts debut and Kyle Lafferty is back from suspension, while Motherwell are without Alex Fisher – who drove all the way down to Yeovil on Friday to feature in the Glovers’ FA Cup tie against Manchester United – but Peter Hartley, whose announcement video was akin to that of United’s Alexis Sanchez revelation, is back from suspension having signed permamently from Blackpool this week.


NO MARGIN FOR ERROR FOR THE TERRORS

More of the same: The Terrors will hope for a similar outcome to their last home game, when they thrashed bottom-club Brechin City 4-1 at Tannadice on January 2

After St Mirren’s charge at the top continued with a crucial away win at promotion rivals Dunfermline on Friday night, it only served as a further reminder that Dundee United cannot afford any more slip-ups like the disastrous 6-1 defeat at struggling Falkirk recently in the race for promotion in the Championship.

Since that thumping on January 6, the Terrors have responded well by keeping successive clean sheets – including earning a hard-earned point at Dunfermline – in a bid to keep the pressure on St Mirren, who they lost to at the tail end of December.

Next up on Saturday afternoon is a home clash against a Greenock Morton side who sit seventh in the table, so three points at Tannadice is a must in the first of two games in hand on St Mirren as they look to respond to the Buddies’ fine result.

Former Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo has repeatedly emphasised that taking United back to where they feel they belong – in the Scottish Premiership – is his sole focus since replacing Ray McKinnon in November.

If they are to achieve that, even via the play-off route, consistency in all areas will be key between now and the end of the season and games like this weekend’s shouldn’t present any problems.


CAN AYR KEEP THE FIGHT GOING?

Magnificent: McCall will be hoping the Somerset Park club can continue their excellent season so far

In Scottish League One, a fascinating battle is being played out at the top of the table in the race for the title between leaders Raith Rovers and second-placed Ayr United.

With just a point separating the sides, the Honest Men – who have played a game more but won the same number of matches (14) as Raith – make the trip to Hampden Park on Saturday to face a Queen’s Park side who are joint bottom of the 10-team pack with just 18 points from 22 games.

Apart from a disappointing home defeat to third-placed Arbroath, Ian McCall’s side have been going well and have the tantalising prospect of a visit from Rangers on the horizon in the Scottish Cup – should the Gers get past Fraserburgh in their re-arranged fourth-round tie.

Ayr managed to get a valuable point against Raith a fortnight ago in their last league outing and, with Gary Locke’s side expected to beat fifth-placed Alloa Athletic away from home elsewhere on Saturday, know they need to get back to winning ways in the league to sustain their excellent pursuit of top spot in what is sure to be an exciting second half of the season.


ODDS STACKED AGAINST THE BLUE BRAZIL

Doom and gloom: Cowdenbeath has been a welcoming place for visiting teams in the fourth tier this season

Propping up the entire SPFL, it’s been another largely unforgettable season so far for all the wrong reasons for Cowdenbeath.

Rooted to the foot of League Two with just one league win to their name, things are looking bleak for Gary Bollan’s men, who face the prospect of being demoted having avoided a third successive relegation by winning a play-off against Lowland League champions East Kilbride last season.

But, despite having just nine points on the board from 19 games, all hope is not lost just yet, with the gap between themselves and Edinburgh City just six points as it stands and Cowdenbeath have a game in hand on them.

The Fife club, who were playing in the Championship as recently as 2014/15, had lost successive games before last weekend’s game at Stenhousemuir fell foul of the weather so have had extra time to prepare for the visit of seventh-placed Berwick Rangers on Saturday.

Cowdenbeath know they need to start picking up points from somewhere in a collision course for survival which is looking increasingly like it won’t be successful and, if it can be this weekend, they might just give themselves a glimmer of hope in the face of adversity.


NEW FACES ON SHOW IN DINGWALL

The stage is ready: Ross County and Rangers are likely to continue to bed in several new signings when they meet in Dingwall in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday

Keen to make an impression, there is likely to be a number of players still getting used to new team-mates and new surroundings when Rangers travel to Ross County in Sunday’s televised Premiership encounter.

Greg Docherty should make his debut for Graeme Murty’s side at the Global Energy Arena, just two days after the midfielder’s move from top-flight rivals Hamilton Accies.

He became the fifth new arrival in January for the Glasgow giants, following Sean Goss, Jamie Murphy, Jason Cummings and Russell Martin through the gates at Ibrox.

After their Scottish Cup tie at Highland League side Fraserburgh was postponed last weekend, the Gers roared back into action following the winter break with another impressive victory over Aberdeen in midweek – with all four of this month’s acquisitions playing a part.

Despite having to put up with a host of absentees, Murty will be hoping his promising new-look side continues to gel as they seek to maintain some kind of pressure on runaway leaders Celtic, who have an 11-point lead heading into the weekend, by beating bottom-club Ross County.

The Staggies have been one of the busier teams in the transfer market, with Owen Coyle bringing in former Liverpool striker David N’Gog, who he worked with at Bolton, as well as midfielder Greg Tansey on loan from Aberdeen, Inih Effiong from Woking and defender Harry Souttar on loan from Stoke City.

Although Tansey is doubtful with an injury, the trio of Effiong, Souttar and N’Gog look to set to make their home debuts as the Dingwall club – who have been on the road for six of their last nine games – hope to pull off a shock by ending a 10-game winless run back on their own patch against the Old Firm side who seem to be on the rise again.

Scottish League Cup: Thomson and Clancy to referee semi-finals

Craig Thomson will handle his 13th Old Firm derby while Kevin Clancy will referee his first domestic cup semi-final in this weekend’s Betfred Cup last-four ties at Hampden Park.

craig-thomson-and-kevin-clancy
Chosen ones: Thomson (left) and Clancy have been handed the responsibility to oversee the 2016 League Cup last-four ties (Pictures from BBC Scotland and Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson and Kevin Clancy have been confirmed as the referees for this weekend’s Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park.

Thomson will be in the middle for the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday (KO 14:05 BST).

Meanwhile, Clancy has been selected to officiate Premiership side Aberdeen against Championship outfit Greenock Morton on Saturday (KO 12:15 BST).

Both ties will be televised live on BT Sport.


The perennial Old Firm whistler…

Craig Thomson (Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi - 17th April 2016)
For the big occasion: It will be Thomson’s 17th domestic match at Hampden and his 10th cup semi-final (Picture from Sky Sports)

It may be an unlucky number for some but Thomson will be hoping it will bring him some fortune as he prepares for his 13th Old Firm derby – no other referee has handled more than five.

His first derby came back in 2006 and he has since built up a wealth of experience in handling Scottish football’s most explosive duel in cup finals, crucial league encounters and, more recently, semi-final battles.

It will be the third season in a row the Fifa whistler, who went to Euro 2012, will manage a cup semi-final between the sides at the national stadium – after Celtic’s 2-0 League Cup win in 2015 and Rangers’ Scottish Cup win on penalties earlier this year.

David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny will assist Thomson, with Steven McLean taking the fourth official reins.

craig-thomson-speaks-to-scott-brown-v-rangers-17th-april-2016
Longest-serving: Thomson has officiated in Scotland’s top-flight since 2002 and appointed Fifa status a year later (Picture from Sky Sports)

It was widely expected McLean or Bobby Madden might be entrusted with their first Old Firm derbies as Thomson and Willie Collum – who oversaw his third when Celtic thrashed Rangers 5-1 last month – are the only officials among the current crop to have previously refereed the fixture.

But, with a place in November’s Betfred Cup Final at stake, they have called on the vastly experienced Thomson to make the decisions for the latest meeting of Glasgow’s biggest rivals.

The former lawyer, from Renfrewshire, oversaw the League Cup final meeting between the sides in 2011 – awarding Rangers a penalty before reversing his decision and sending off Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre in an eventual 2-1 win for the Ibrox side.

Earlier this season, he was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 win at Dundee.

Meanwhile, a week later and also in front of the BT cameras, Thomson refused to co-operate with the broadcaster’s staff before starting the second half of Celtic’s 4-2 win at St Johnstone more than a minute ahead of schedule.

They are the only occasions Thomson, who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup Finals, has encountered either of the Old Firm sides this term.

The 44-year-old handled Copenhagen’s 4-0 win over Club Brugge in last month’s Champions League group match and the Netherlands’ 4-1 victory over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.

But he has only refereed one previous League Cup tie this season – Aberdeen’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at Pittodrie in the quarter-finals.

Overall, Thomson has issued 51 yellow cards, sent off three players and awarded four penalties in 12 games across five different competitions so far this term.

REACTION:

Celtic fans have been particularly vocal on social media, expressing their disappointment that the Scottish FA have again looked towards Thomson to keep the peace in the Glasgow derby…


Another step in Clancy’s burgeoning reputation…

Kevin Clancy before the 2016 Scottish League Cup Final
Footnote: Clancy is widely regarded as a lenient and respectable referee who keeps control of games well and rarely attracts controversy (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Despite several appearances as a fourth official and additional assistant, it will only be the second time Clancy steps out as referee at the national stadium.

The Glasgow-born whistler will still have fond memories of his previous visit after overseeing his first major final in last season’s League Cup showpiece, booking only two players as Ross County beat Hibernian 2-1.

He was also in the middle for Rangers’ shock 1-0 defeat by Raith Rovers in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final at Hibs’ Easter Road.

Surprisingly, it will be the 32-year-old’s first ever domestic cup semi as referee too – in this his fifth season officiating in Scotland’s top-flight.

Former lawyer Clancy has previously been the fourth official for the 2013 and 2015 League Cup Final – as well as Ross County’s 3-1 semi-final win over Celtic last term, which was refereed by Thomson.

He was also an additional assistant referee in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final at Celtic Park and Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi win over Celtic on penalties, as well as European games such as the 2015 Uefa Super Cup.

But the Renfrewshire-based official missed out on a place in Willie Collum’s team of officials for Euro 2016 last summer, with Bobby Madden and John Beaton selected for the role.

Kevin Clancy (Dundee v Dundee Utd - 2nd January 2016)
Big games: Clancy has handled several Europa League matches as well as Dundee and Edinburgh derbies domestically (Picture from Sky Sports)

Clancy has encountered both sides once in league games this term – issuing seven yellows in Aberdeen’s goalless draw with Hearts in August and booking six players in Morton’s 2-1 victory over Dunfermline.

It will be his fifth League Cup tie of the campaign after Partick Thistle’s 1-0 win at Airdrieonians, Dundee’s 6-2 victory over Dumbarton, Alloa’s 1-0 success at Raith Rovers, and Celtic’s 5-0 win over Motherwell in the last 16 phase.

Overall, Clancy has brandished 54 yellow cards, sent off Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor in their 1-1 draw with Rangers in August, and pointed to the penalty spot three times in 13 matches in all competitions.

Clancy first took up the whistle in 2000 and was admitted to the Scottish FA five years later before overseeing his first SPL match in 2012.

Such was his fast progression, he was even recognised by Fifa – one of seven currently from Scotland on the list – before his promotion to the top-flight had been confirmed.

Among Clancy’s other high-profile appointments was the Championship play-off semi first leg between Hamilton Accies and Falkirk in 2014 and Queen’s Park’s League One play-off second leg win over Clyde last term.

At Hampden, he will be assisted by Alastair Mather and Gordon Crawford, while Euan Anderson will be on electronic board duties as fourth official.

2014 winners Aberdeen have complained about the scheduling of the tie, with the lunchtime kick-off not giving enough time for their travelling support to make the trip from the north east.

Scottish Premiership: Don Robertson to referee Rangers v Hamilton opener

Don Robertson will take charge of the first SPFL match of 2016-17 at Ibrox, while Nick Walsh and John Beaton are also in action on the opening weekend.

Don Robertson (Dunfermline v Airdrieonians - 29th Jan 2016)
Relative rookie: Robertson has only handled 28 Premiership games to date – issuing 82 yellows, eight red cards and awarding nine spotkicks (Picture from BBC ALBA)

DON Robertson will take charge of the first match of the 2016-17 Scottish Premiership season when Rangers host Hamilton Academical on Saturday.

The 29-year-old is a surprise choice to referee the top-flight opener as the promoted Gers take on Accies in the televised lunchtime encounter (KO 12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be ably assisted by Graeme Leslie and Brian Templeton, with Craig Charleston performing fourth official duties.

It’s the start of Robertson’s third season in the Premiership having received his first match on the opening weekend two years ago in Hamilton’s 2-0 home defeat by Inverness – after being promoted with Andrew Dallas in the summer of 2014.

The Glasgow whistler officiated nine top-flight games in his debut campaign and 19 last season, when he established himself as a regular with 41 games in all competitions.

Don Robertson stats
Statistics: How Don Robertson’s 2015-16 campaign fared across all competitions (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

Robertson has brandished four yellow cards in as many League Cup games so far this term and awarded one penalty but is yet to send a player off.

He has already encountered Hamilton in their 3-0 win over St Mirren at New Douglas Park on July 23 and made history by handling the first game of the revamped Betfred Cup in Dundee United’s penalty shootout success over Arbroath.

Robertson – who is an accountant by occupation – was also in charge of Partick Thistle’s 4-1 win at Stenhousemuir and Motherwell’s 3-0 victory over Stranraer at Stair Park last weekend.

He will be in Croatia as late as Thursday night as fourth official to John Beaton for the Europa League third qualifying round second leg between Hadjuk Split and FC Olexandriya.

Robertson has been a Category One official since 2012, the same year he oversaw the Scottish Junior Cup Final.

He began refereeing at the age of 17 after playing semi-pro with Partick Thistle, Queen’s Park and St Mirren.

Robertson has played a supporting role for a number of crucial games – having been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup semi-finals and the 2015 Scottish Cup Final between Inverness and Falkirk.

He was the fourth official for Rangers’ 4-0 win over Peterhead in the Petrofac Training Cup Final at Hampden – and fulfilled the same role at Ibrox on the opening weekend in 2013 for the Gers’ 4-1 win over Brechin City in League One.

It will be a quick reunion with the Light Blues for Robertson, who was the referee for their final game of the Championship season on May 1 in the 2-2 draw at St Mirren.


ELSEWHERE…

John Beaton in action (Partick Thistle v Celtic - 9th August 2015)
Different role: Beaton was an additional assistant referee at Euro 2016 as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for two group games (Picture from BT Sport)

John Beaton will be the man in the middle for Celtic’s opening league game against Hearts on Sunday.

The 34-year-old, from Lanarkshire, takes charge when the champions visit Tynecastle for Brendan Rodgers’ first Premiership match at the helm (KO 2:15pm, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by David McGeachie and Gary Hilland, while Alan Muir – who was the referee for Celtic’s 3-1 win in the teams’ last encounter – is the fourth official.

Beaton didn’t have his best game in Celtic’s 2-1 victory over the Jambos in the League Cup quarter-finals last October – his only previous fixture between the sides.

Like Celtic, the Motherwell-based whistler is on European duty in midweek having been assigned to referee the Europa League third qualifying round second leg between Hadjuk Split and FC Olexandryia.

He has awarded one penalty in each of his four games so far this season – three of which were in the Betfred Cup, including Rangers’ 3-0 win over Stranraer at Ibrox.

Beaton – who is still a part-time communications officer at the University of Strathclyde – was the referee for Celtic’s 1-1 draw with Leicester in the International Champions Cup at Parkhead a fortnight ago.

Aside from the League Cup tie, he encountered Hearts on four other occasions last season – twice in the Premiership against Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock at Tynecastle, and twice in the Scottish Cup against Aberdeen and Hibernian.

Beaton handled three Celtic league games – their 2-0 Glasgow derby win at Partick Thistle and 3-1 victory over St Johnstone in August, and goalless draw at home to Dundee in March.

Overall, he brandished 156 yellow cards, sent off 10 players and awarded 10 penalties in 45 matches across all competitions.

A Category One official since 2009, Beaton has established himself as a regular in the Premiership since his first game in 2012 and is one of seven Scottish referees on Fifa’s international list.

He has officiated the 2015 Ramsdens Cup Final, two League Cup semi-finals, two Scottish Cup semis including one last season, and been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup Finals.

John Beaton in action (Dundee Utd v Dundee - 11th August 2015)
Experience: Beaton, whose cousin Steven Nicholls is a referee, first took up the whistle in 1997 (Picture from Sky Sports)

MEANWHILE…

Nick Walsh in action (Hibs v Alloa - 21st Feb 2016)
Rookie: Walsh will take charge of only his fourth Premiership match in Maryhill on the opening weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

Nick Walsh will take charge of the Premiership opener between Partick Thistle and Inverness Caley Thistle at Firhill on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).

The 30-year-old from Stirling, who was promoted to Category One over the summer, is only in his fourth season as a senior official.

He will be assisted by Andrew McWilliam and Graham McNellie, while Mat Northcroft will be the fourth official.

Walsh has dished out 13 yellow cards and awarded two penalties in four League Cup games so far – Queen of the South’s 2-0 victory over Airdrieonians, Motherwell’s 3-1 victory at Annan, and Peterhead’s surprise 2-1 win against Dundee.

He was also called up as a late replacement for Willie Collum for Ayr United’s opening 2-1 success over Hamilton Accies.

The Glasgow-born whistler only handled his first top-flight game in April and received two more before the end of the season.

He was in the middle for Partick Thistle’s 1-0 defeat at Ross County and 2-1 loss at home to Dundee, as well as Hearts’ 1-1 draw with Ross County on the final day of the season.

Walsh was one of the most card-happy officials in Scotland having brandished 123 yellow cards and 14 red cards in 32 games last term, as well as awarding 10 penalties.

He has been a regular in the Championship and fourth official for numerous Premiership games in the last two seasons.

But his attitude was questioned by Motherwell boss Mark McGhee, who felt his communication should have been better when in control of electronic board duties during April’s 4-1 defeat at Aberdeen.


Willie Collum referee (Scottish Cup Final - 30th May 2015)
Notable meeting: Collum oversaw the 2014 Scottish Cup semi-final between the sides at Ibrox (Picture from Sky Sports)

Euro 2016 referee Willie Collum will be in the middle for Sunday’s other televised game between St Johnstone and Aberdeen.

The 37-year-old school teacher, from Glasgow, will take charge of his second domestic match of the season in the lunchtime kick-off at McDiarmid Park (KO 12:15 BST, live on BT Sport).

He will be assisted in Perthshire by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross, with Greg Aitken on fourth official duties.

Collum performed well in his two games in France before being sent home at the end of the group stages – Turkey’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and the hosts’ 2-0 victory against Albania.

The Fifa official – who has been an SPL regular since his 2006 debut – oversaw Dundee’s 7-0 victory against Forfar in the Betfred Cup first round.


Kevin Clancy before the 2016 Scottish League Cup Final
Major honour: Clancy, who handled the 2014 Challenge Cup Final, officiated Ross County’s 2-1 win over Hibs at Hampden in March’s League Cup showpiece (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Kevin Clancy will be the man in the middle for the Championship’s standout opening match between Falkirk and Hibernian on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).

The 32-year-old has been assigned to the opening weekend game between two expected promotion hopefuls at the Falkirk Stadium as Neil Lennon prepares to take charge of his first league game as Hibs manager.

Clancy – who will be assisted by Alastair Mather and Daniel McFarlane – has received more responsibility in the last 18 months having overseen a number of high-profile games such as Edinburgh and Dundee derbies, and last season’s Scottish League Cup Final.

The Renfrewshire-based whistler has handled a Champions League qualifier, Europa League game and three League Cup matches so far this season.

Glasgow-born Clancy – who has been a Category One official since 2009 – took charge of Hibs’ 1-1 draw with Falkirk at Easter Road last December, among 10 Championship games in 2015-16.

He has also been appointed to referee the televised League Cup second round tie between Premiership sides Celtic and Motherwell at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

2016-17 Football Season: Predicted Tables

With one of the most unpredictable seasons in years in store, guessing the final outcome across England, Scotland and Spain has proved difficult.

2016-17 football season
Mouth-watering: Football fans can expect one of the biggest and best seasons in recent memory in 2016-17 in England and Scotland (Pictures from Sky Sports)

AFTER the briefest of breaks following the unexpected climax at Euro 2016, football makes a welcome comeback as the new domestic campaign begins in earnest.

2016-17 promises to be more dramatic, exciting and entertaining than seasons gone by with new managers, players and teams settling into their fresh surroundings and hoping to make an impact.

From Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford to Burton Albion’s Championship debut, there are many intriguing sub-plots which could present more shocks and surprises – such as Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title triumph as relegation favourites last term.

Such is the uncertainty of how clubs will fare amid the hive of summer activity, unrivalled spending and the fall-out from last season’s outcomes, predicting the precise outcomes in the promotion, play-off and relegation pictures in all leagues is an incredibly tough task.

Here’s my rough guess on what the final standings might look like across the main divisions in England, Scotland and Spain when May eventually comes around…


Manchester United and Manchester City fans outside Old Trafford
Rivals: After battling each other for a Champions League place last term, United and City will hope to mount a title pursuit this time around (Picture from Getty Images)

Premier League predicted table:

  1. Manchester City
  2. Manchester United
  3. Chelsea
  4. Liverpool
    ——————–
  5. Tottenham Hotspur
    ——————–
  6. Arsenal
  7. West Ham United
  8. Leicester City
  9. Everton
  10. Southampton
  11. Stoke City
  12. Crystal Palace
  13. Bournemouth
  14. Middlesbrough
  15. Watford
  16. Sunderland
  17. Swansea City
    ——————–
  18. West Bromwich Albion
  19. Burnley
  20. Hull City

Rafael Benitez pre-match (v Man City - 19th April 2016)
Contrast: The former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss will hope to steer the Magpies to an immediate Premier League return in his first taste of the Football League as a manager (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet Championship predicted table:

  1. Newcastle United
  2. Norwich City
    ———————
  3. Derby County
  4. Sheffield Wednesday
  5. Brighton
  6. Aston Villa
    ———————
  7. Nottingham Forest
  8. Leeds United
  9. Ipswich Town
  10. Wolves
  11. Fulham
  12. Reading
  13. Queens Park Rangers
  14. Cardiff City
  15. Birmingham City
  16. Wigan Athletic
  17. Blackburn Rovers
  18. Brentford
  19. Bristol City
  20. Preston North End
  21. Huddersfield Town
    ———————-
  22. Barnsley
  23. Burton Albion
  24. Rotherham United

Chris Wilder (Sheffield Utd boss at Wembley - 30th May 2016)
Possible saviour: The former Northampton boss is bidding to take the Blades back to the Championship after six years in the third tier (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet League One predicted table:

  1. Millwall
  2. Charlton Athletic
    ——————-
  3. Sheffield United
  4. MK Dons
  5. Bolton Wanderers
  6. Coventry City
    ——————-
  7. Bradford City
  8. Peterborough United
  9. Gillingham
  10. Scunthorpe United
  11. Southend United
  12. Walsall
  13. Northampton Town
  14. Swindon Town
  15. Oxford United
  16. Bristol Rovers
  17. AFC Wimbledon
  18. Rochdale
  19. Fleetwood Town
  20. Chesterfield
    ——————–
  21. Bury
  22. Port Vale
  23. Shrewsbury Town
  24. Oldham Athletic

Derek Adams on sidelines (v Wimbledon - 30th May 2016)
Disappointment: Derek Adams, who has signed a new four-year deal at Home Park, saw his side beaten 2-0 by Wimbledon in last season’s Play-Off Final at Wembley (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet League Two predicted table:

  1. Portsmouth
  2. Plymouth Argyle
  3. Doncaster Rovers
    ——————–
  4. Leyton Orient
  5. Luton Town
  6. Colchester United
  7. Notts County
    ——————–
  8. Wycombe Wanderers
  9. Cambridge United
  10. Carlisle United
  11. Exeter City
  12. Accrington Stanley
  13. Cheltenham Town
  14. Mansfield Town
  15. Blackpool
  16. Grimsby Town
  17. Crewe Alexandra
  18. Hartlepool United
  19. Barnet
  20. Yeovil Town
  21. Stevenage
  22. Crawley Town
    ———————
  23. Newport County
  24. Morecambe

Dover Athletic supporters before KO (v C Palace in FA Cup - 4th Jan 2015)
Positive: Dover Athletic fans will be optimistic their side can make up for failing to make the play-offs last season in non-league’s top tier (Picture from BT Sport)

National League predicted table:

  1. York City
    ———————–
  2. Tranmere Rovers
  3. Forest Green Rovers
  4. Wrexham
  5. Dover Athletic
    ———————–
  6. Eastleigh
  7. Braintree Town
  8. Dagenham & Redbridge
  9. Macclesfield Town
  10. Torquay United
  11. Lincoln City
  12. Woking
  13. Gateshead
  14. Chester
  15. Barrow
  16. Aldershot Town
  17. Bromley
  18. Boreham Wood
  19. Solihull Moors
  20. Southport
    ————————
  21. Guiseley
  22. Maidstone United
  23. North Ferriby United
  24. Sutton United

Stockport County sign outside Edgeley Park
Ready to rise: Former Football League club Stockport County will be hoping their fourth successive season in the sixth tier is their last (Picture by Adam Higgins)

National League North predicted table:

  1. AFC Fylde
    ————————
  2. Kidderminster Harriers
  3. Harrogate Town
  4. Stockport County
  5. Salford City
    ————————-
  6. FC Halifax Town
  7. Boston United
  8. Chorley
  9. Altrincham
  10. Stalybridge Celtic
  11. FC United of Manchester
  12. Nuneaton Town
  13. Bradford Park Avenue
  14. Curzon Ashton
  15. Alfreton Town
  16. Darlington 1883
  17. Gainsborough Trinity
  18. Tamworth
  19. Gloucester City
    ————————–
  20. Worcester City
  21. Brackley Town
  22. Telford United

Mark Warburton with trophy at Ibrox (v Alloa - 23rd April 2016)
Challenge: Rangers boss Mark Warburton will expect his team to compete with champions Celtic for the title after their long-awaited Premiership return (Picture from Sky Sports)

Scottish Premiership predicted table:

  1. Celtic
    —————-
  2. Rangers
  3. Aberdeen
    —————-
  4. Hearts
  5. St Johnstone
  6. Dundee
    —————-
  7. Motherwell
  8. Inverness CT
  9. Partick Thistle
  10. Ross County
    —————–
  11. Hamilton Accies
    —————–
  12. Kilmarnock

Jason Cummings (Hibs forward v Rangers - 23rd August 2015)
Key: Striker Jason Cummings, who has 48 goals for Hibs, will be a crucial factor in Neil Lennon’s side ending their three-year stay in the Championship (Picture from Sky Sports) 

Scottish Championship predicted table:

  1. Hibernian
    ——————–
  2. Dundee United
  3. Falkirk
  4. St Mirren
    ——————–
  5. Raith Rovers
  6. Queen of the South
  7. Dunfermline Athletic
  8. Greenock Morton
    ——————–
  9. Dumbarton
    ——————–
  10. Ayr United

Zinedine Zidane and Luis Enrique
Familiar battle: Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique (right) will be leading the pack in the race for the title (Pictures from Sky Sports)

La Liga predicted table:

  1. Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Atletico Madrid
  4. Sevilla
    ——————-
  5. Villarreal
  6. Valencia
    ——————-
  7. Athletic Bilbao
  8. Espanyol
  9. Real Socediad
  10. Malaga
  11. Celta Vigo
  12. Granada
  13. Sporting Gijon
  14. Real Betis
  15. Deportivo La Coruna
  16. Osasuna
  17. Eibar
    ——————–
  18. Las Palmas
  19. Leganes
  20. Alaves

Scottish League Cup: John McKendrick to referee Dundee United v Dunfermline

The experienced Ayrshire official will take charge of the televised Group C game at Tannadice.

John McKendrick referee (Raith Rovers v Hibs - 19th March 2016)
Familiar face: McKendrick is regularly seen officiating in Scotland’s lower divisions (Picture from BBC ALBA)

JOHN McKendrick has been confirmed as the referee for Sunday’s televised Scottish League Cup encounter between Dundee United and Dunfermline Athletic.

The 47-year-old will be in charge when the two Championship sides meet at Tannadice in Group C on July 31 (KO 15:00 BST, live on BT Sport).

He will be assisted by Stephen Mitchell and John McCrossan, with Stephen Finnie the fourth official.

It’s McKendrick’s third game in the competition of the season after overseeing Morton’s 1-0 win against Clyde on July 19 and Raith Rovers’ penalty shoot-out success over holders Ross County four days later.

He has brandished six yellow cards and awarded one spotkick so far but is yet to send a player off – and hasn’t issued a red card since Rangers’ 4-0 win at Stenhousemuir in April 2014.

Taking up the whistle in 1994, the father-of-three from Ayrshire has been a Category One referee since 2005 – five years after being admitted to the Scottish FA.

McKendrick attracted criticism last season, awarding Rangers a controversial free-kick which led to the decisive goal in their 3-1 win over Falkirk last October.

He was branded ‘a sh**bag’ by Bairns boss Peter Houston – who was subsequently reported to the SFA by McKendrick – and first-team coach Alan Maybury accepted a one-match ban for ‘abusive and insulting language’ after the final whistle at Ibrox.

A week later, he incurred the wrath of Morton boss Jim Duffy after booking Stefan McCluskey for diving when he went down under the challenge of Queen of the South’s Lewis Kidd.

John McKendrick stats
Statistics: How the numbers added up during McKendrick’s games in the 2015-16 season (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

McKendrick handled the League One Play-Off Semi-Final second leg between Stenhousemuir and East Fife at the end of a mixed campaign for him on a personal level.

He was also the fourth official for the League Cup Final at Hampden Park and, earlier in pre-season, was selected as one of the referees for the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow.

McKendrick has taken control of seven Scottish top-flight games in his career – all in the 2010-11 season, with his last being St Johnstone’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie on the final day.

He refereed three League One games involving Dunfermline last term but hasn’t encountered Dundee United since a goalless draw at McDiarmid Park in February 2011.

McKendrick – who likes orienteering and cycling in his spare time – is also a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Ray McKinnon’s Dundee United have won two penalty shootouts against Arbroath and Inverness, and thrashed Cowdenbeath 6-1 so far.

Meanwhile, Allan Johnston’s Dunfermline beat both Cowdenbeath and Arbroath 3-0 before a 5-1 defeat at home to Inverness.

John McKendrick (Morton v Raith Rovers - 18th Dec 2015)
Former role: McKendrick used to be the chairman of the Scottish Senior Football Referees Association before Crawford Allan (Picture from BBC ALBA)

ELSEWHERE…

Andrew Dallas in 1st Celtic game (v Stranraer - 10th Jan 2016)
In control: Andrew Dallas will also referee Partick Thistle’s Group E match against League Two Arbroath at Firhill (Picture from Sky Sports)

On Saturday, Don Robertson will take charge of Motherwell’s Group F game against League One Stranraer at Stair Park.

Euan Anderson will be the man in the middle for Hamilton Academical’s clash with Livingston in Group G at New Douglas Park.

And Kilmarnock’s Group H encounter with League Two side Albion Rovers at Rugby Park will be officiated by Bobby Madden.

Click here for a full list of the final League Cup first round match official appointments