Scottish Cup: Thomson and Collum to referee Rangers and Celtic

Craig Thomson will be in the middle for Rangers against Motherwell at Ibrox, while Willie Collum has been appointed to Celtic’s fourth-round tie at Albion Rovers.

craig-thomson-and-willie-collum
Centre stage: Thomson (left) and Collum have attracted controversy in the past but have represented Scotland well on the European and international scene (Pictures from Sky Sports)

The heavyweights will be out in force as the match official appointments for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup have been announced.

Craig Thomson will take charge of the first tie of the weekend as Rangers face another Premiership side in Motherwell at Ibrox on Saturday (KO 12:30 GMT).

And fellow elite official Willie Collum will be in the middle for Celtic’s trip to League One Albion Rovers on Sunday – also live on Sky Sports – with kick-off at 15:00 GMT.

The other TV game will see John Beaton oversee Hearts’ match at Championship outfit Raith Rovers in front of the BBC Scotland cameras earlier on Sunday (KO 13:05 GMT).


Thomson makes Ibrox return

Craig Thomson referee
Veteran: Thomson is the longest-serving of the current crop of Scottish officials having refereed his first top-flight match in May 2002 (Picture from Sky Sports)

It will be the fourth time Thomson will encounter Rangers this season but his first trip to Ibrox for a year since giving them two penalties in their 4-1 win over Livingston on the way to the Championship title.

The vastly-experienced whistler handled their 2-1 win at Dundee in August, 1-0 loss to Celtic in the Old Firm League Cup semi-final, and 2-0 defeat at Hearts in November.

His only Motherwell matches were their 2-1 victory at Kilmarnock on the opening weekend and 1-1 draw at Partick Thistle in September.

Overall, the trained lawyer from Renfrewshire has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off seven players and awarded six penalties in 24 games in all competitions.

Thomson has previously officiated three Scottish Cup Finals – including Rangers’ 1-0 victory over Falkirk in the 2009 showpiece at Hampden.

He will be assisted by Alan Mulvanny and Andrew McWilliam, with Stephen Finnie on fourth official duties.

Earlier this season, Thomson 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 success at Dens Park.

He was also branded ‘the Scottish butcher’ by angry Besiktas players after a controversial performance in their pivotal 6-0 defeat at Dynamo Kiev during the Champions League group stages.


Collum reunited with Celtic

willie-collum-with-erik-sviatchenko-v-hamilton-24th-dec-2016
Spotlight: Collum has largely stayed under the radar after being dropped for a period last term following a number of contentious decisions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Collum usually officiates Celtic on a monthly basis but it will only be the third occasion he will oversee the champions so far this term.

The 2015 Uefa Super Cup and Euro 2016 referee put in a fine display in their 5-1 thumping of Rangers at Parkhead in September.

But he was criticised by Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers for sending off Calum McGregor in their 1-1 draw at Hamilton on Christmas Eve.

It will be the first time the Religious Education teacher will be in the middle for an Albion Rovers game, which will be staged at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium to allow extra fans to watch – a stone’s throw from where he resides in North Lanarkshire.

In 27 matches across six competitions this season, Glasgow-born Collum has dished out 89 bookings, issued five red cards and pointed to the penalty spot nine times.

The 37-year-old has handled two Scottish Cup Finals – the first of which was Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hibernian in 2013.

He will be assisted by Michael Banks and John McCrossan, while Gavin Duncan will act as the fourth official.

To his credit, the notoriously card-happy Collum has rarely attracted controversy this term.

The only notable occasion came when he was slated by fans on social media after harshly penalising Jamie MacDonald for a perceived foul on James Maddison, which led to Aberdeen’s opening goal in their 4-0 win at Kilmarnock in October.

You can see the rest of the Scottish Cup match official appointments here.

Craig Thomson to referee Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi-final

Referees Craig Thomson and John Beaton will take charge of the Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park later this month, with the help of additional assistants.

Craig Thomson referee
Veteran: Thomson will oversee his third Scottish Cup semi-final and 12th Old Firm derby (Picture from Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson has been confirmed as the referee for the Scottish Cup semi-final between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday, April 17.

The 43-year-old will take charge of the eagerly-awaited Old Firm clash between the Glasgow rivals at Hampden Park (KO 12:00 BST).

He will be assisted by linesmen Alan Mulvanny and Douglas Ross, fourth official Bobby Madden and additional assistant referees Kevin Clancy and Don Robertson.

Thomson also officiated the League Cup semi-final last season which was the first meeting between the sides in three years, when Celtic won 2-0 in a largely incident-free encounter.

The longest-serving of the current crop of Scottish officials, he has a wealth of experience having handled 11 previous Old Firm derbies, with the first coming in April 2006.

Those past encounters include the 2011 League Cup Final at the national stadium in which the Paisley lawyer dismissed Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre for a professional foul and overturned a penalty given to the Gers, who won 2-1 after extra time.

It will be his 16th domestic match at Hampden Park and ninth cup semi-final – a first in the Scottish Cup since Celtic’s 4-3 win over Dundee United in 2013.

Thomson – who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup finals – was in the middle for Celtic’s 3-1 League Cup semi defeat by Ross County in January, in which he sent off Efe Ambrose early on.

The Renfrewshire whistler – who was overlooked for Euro 2016, with Willie Collum preferred instead – has awarded more penalties (17) than any other Scottish official so far this season.

He has also distributed an astonishing 149 yellow cards – and eight reds – in 37 matches in all competitions.

It will be the seventh time that Thomson oversees Celtic this term, while he has only encountered Rangers in their 4-1 Championship win over Livingston in January when he awarded them two penalties.

Craig Thomson's 2015-16 record so far
Statistics: How Thomson’s 2015-16 campaign has shaped up so far (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)


John Beaton speaks with Hibernian's Fraser Fyvie against Rangers
In control: Beaton was the man in the middle for Hibs’ 2-1 win over Rangers on November 1 at Easter Road (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, John Beaton will take charge of the other semi-final between Hibernian and Dundee United.

He will be in the middle as Championship side Hibs tussle with the Premiership’s bottom club at the national stadium on Saturday, April 16 (KO 12:15 BST).

Beaton will be working alongside Graham Chambers and Stuart Stevenson, with Euan Anderson the fourth official – as he was for a League Cup semi in January. The goal-line officials are Andrew Dallas and Alan Muir.

Incidentally, Muir was behind the goal in the Scottish Cup semi 12 months ago when a handball on the line by Inverness’ Josh Meekings went unspotted in their controversial 3-2 extra-time win over Celtic.

Beaton was also involved in last year’s semi-finals as referee for Hibernian’s 1-0 defeat by fellow Championship side Falkirk.

He was also the fourth official when Hibs beat Falkirk 4-3 in the Scottish Cup semis in 2013 but ended up refereeing the extra-time period after Iain Brines came off injured.

Beaton oversaw a League Cup semi-final in 2014, sending off two Inverness players as Caley Thistle beat Hearts on penalties at Hibs’ Easter Road stadium.

It will be the fifth time that the Lanarkshire whistler will oversee both Dundee United and Hearts in all competitions this term.

The 34-year-old was in the middle for the 2015 Challenge Cup Final – his only major final to date – but was fourth official for the 2014 League Cup Final and an additional assistant for the 2013 Scottish Cup Final.

Beaton will also be going to Euro 2016 as a goal-line official as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for the summer tournament in France.

John Beaton's 2015-16 record so far
Record: How Beaton’s busy season has panned out to date (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

Thomson and Beaton handled both Edinburgh derby meetings between Hibs and Hearts in the quarter-finals, with Beaton sending off two players in the Easter Road replay which Hibs won 1-0.

Two-time winners Hibs have not lifted the Scottish Cup since 1902 as they bid to reach their second major cup final of the season after losing 2-1 to Ross County in the League Cup showpiece last month.

Dundee United have also won the competition twice but were runners-up in 2014 after losing 2-0 to St Johnstone in the final at Celtic Park. They last reached the semi stage three years ago.

Rangers – who have not won the Scottish Cup since 2009 – have secured promotion to the Scottish Premiership in boss Mark Warburton’s debut season to ensure the Old Firm derby returns to the top-flight next season.

Premiership leaders Celtic are bidding to reach their first Scottish Cup final since 2013 in Ronny Deila’s second campaign in charge.

Both ties will be screened live on Sky Sports, while Hibs v Dundee United will also be shown on BBC Scotland.

Rangers held to Scottish Cup replay by stubborn Kilmarnock

Rangers will face a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Rugby Park after interim boss Lee McCulloch guided Kilmarnock to a goalless draw on his return to Ibrox.

  •  Rangers fail to score for first time in 32 games this season 
  •  Former Gers skipper McCulloch in interim charge of Killie for first time
  •  Championship side dominant against Premiership strugglers 
  •  Both sides in Monday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final draw 
Lee McCulloch on the sidelines
Familiar territory: McCulloch, 37, returned to Ibrox where he left last summer having won eight major honours in eight seasons (Picture from Sky Sports)

RANGERS failed to score for the first time this season as Lee McCulloch earned a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay on his Ibrox return.

The Championship leaders created a host of opportunities as James Tavernier hit the post in the first half and Danny Wilson headed against the crossbar after the break.

Lee Wallace and Andy Halliday were also denied by visiting keeper Jamie MacDonald but the Gers could not secure an eighth successive win in all competitions.

Premiership strugglers Kilmarnock – under interim boss McCulloch for the first time – withstood large swathes of pressure and survived the late dismissal of substitute Kallum Higginbotham for a high challenge on Tavernier.

Higginbotham challenge on Tavernier
Foul: Higginbotham caught Tavernier high with his studs when competing for the ball in front of the linesman (Picture from Sky Sports)

Ex-Gers captain McCulloch – in temporary charge after Gary Locke resigned last weekend – was “delighted” and “proud” of his side’s resilience to earn only a fourth clean sheet of the season after back-to-back defeats by Hamilton and Dundee United which had “damaged confidence”.

Mark Warburton’s men, however, could not beat top-flight opponents for the second time this term following their 3-1 League Cup defeat against St Johnstone in November.

Rangers swept aside Killie 3-0 to reach this stage of the competition last season but found the East Ayrshire outfit a more difficult obstacle this time around.

O'Halloran in the stands
Cup-tied: O’Halloran (centre) and Billy King (right) watched from the stands having already played in the competition for St Johnstone and Hearts respectively (Picture from Sky Sports)

McCulloch made five changes from the 1-0 reverse against Hamilton which left Killie second-bottom in the top-flight, handing debuts to deadline day signings Gary Dicker and Lee Hodson.

Amid a frenetic opening at both ends, Killie’s 10-goal top scorer Josh Magennis nodded Greg Kiltie’s cross narrowly wide.

Inevitably, Rangers full-backs Tavernier and Wallace – with 17 goals between them this season – were in menacing mood going forward and both came close in the early exchanges.

MacDonald parried Wallace’s fierce shot after a clever slide-rule pass from Barrie McKay before Tavernier’s stinging drive from 18 yards rebounded off the right-hand post minutes later.

The unchanged hosts saw the lion’s share of possession but Killie waited to pounce on unforced errors – Tope Obadeyi’s effort from distance tested Wes Foderingham following a quick break.

Craig Slater could have put the visitors ahead close to half-time after checking inside as keeper Foderingham stood tall to block the shot with his head.

Slater chance 45 mins
One-sided: All of Kilmarnock’s clear-cut opportunities came in the first half (Picture from Sky Sports)

Rangers were previously the only Scottish team to notch in every match this season, yet they were continually frustrated by a much-changed Killie backline and their own end product.

Halliday – the match-winner at Raith Rovers in midweek – looked to have found the bottom corner with a curling shot before MacDonald’s last-gasp intervention.

Seeking some additional guile from midfield, Warburton introduced Harry Forrester and the fit-again Jason Holt on the hour in place of Championship player of the month Kenny Miller and the disappointing Gedion Zelalem.

Kenny Miller before kick-off
Landmark: The 36-year-old – who five goals in six games last month – made his 600th appearance in British football (Picture from Sky Sports)

Former Killie loanee Forrester almost made an instant impact, sending a low daisycutter past the post after picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box.

With Rangers the only team offering a second-half threat, a Tavernier free-kick drifted inches wide before Wilson looped a header from Forrester’s corner on to the woodwork from six yards.

Martyn Waghorn looked certain to score but couldn’t bring McKay’s pass under his spell when free in the box as the groans around the stadium grew in volume.

Mark Warburton on sidelines
Scoreless: Warburton’s side have scored 92 goals this season but failed to score for the first time in their 32nd game (Picture from Sky Sports)

Killie ended the game a man light after referee Bobby Madden gave Higginbotham his marching orders with 90 seconds of normal time remaining for a lunge on Tavernier near the touchline.

The visitors desperately threw their bodies on the line – quite literally in the case of Magennis to get in the way of Waghorn’s shot.

But despite their best efforts, Rangers could not find a breakthrough and face a tricky test on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park on February 16.

Although talks have opened with Billy Davies and Lee Clark over the managerial vacancy, McCulloch did his case of keeping the job no harm at all and could still be in charge for the replay a week on Tuesday.

FT match facts
Statistics: Rangers bossed the number of attempts while Kilmarnock committed more fouls and received more cards (Picture from Sky Sports)

TEAMS:

Rangers XI (v Kilmarnock)
Unchanged: Rangers fielded the same XI as Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Raith Rovers (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Forrester (on for Miller 60′), Holt (on for Zelalem 61′) and Law (on for Kiernan 74′).

Not used:  Bell (GK), Thompson, Shiels, Clark.

Booked:  Holt (68′)

 

Kilmarnock XI
Five changes: Hodson, Findlay, Smith, Dicker and Obadeyi came in for Syme, Ashcroft, McHattie, Robinson and Boyd (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  O’Hara (on for Dicker 65′) and Higginbotham (on for Obadeyi 74′).

Not used:  Brennan (GK), Ashcroft, Frizzell, Hamill, Boyd.

Booked:  Smith (29′), Slater (73′)

Sent-off:  Higginbotham (89′)

 

Bobby Madden in charge
In control: The Fifa official handled proceedings well, kept up with play and correctly sent off Higginbotham late on (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Bobby Madden (Scotland) – 8/10
Attendance:  33,581


SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION:

Craig Thomson to referee Scottish Cup Edinburgh derby

Craig Thomson will take charge of his sixth Edinburgh derby when capital rivals Hearts and Hibernian lock horns for a place in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Craig Thomson (League Cup semi Ross County v Celtic - 31st Jan 2016)
Close to home: Thomson was born in Edinburgh and grew up in the capital before moving north to Renfrewshire (Picture from BBC Scotland)

CRAIG Thomson will be the man in charge for the Scottish Cup fifth round tie between Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian this weekend.

The 43-year-old will oversee the marquee tie of the round when the Premiership club welcome the League Cup finalists to Tynecastle on Sunday lunchtime (KO 12:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports 2).

He will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Andrew McWilliam, while Kevin Clancy – who refereed the last meeting between the sides – is the fourth official.

The vastly-experienced Thomson, from Renfrewshire, will handle his sixth Edinburgh derby in total and first since August 2013.

He has officiated 28 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing 119 yellow cards, sending off six players and awarding 14 penalties.

The Paisley-based whistler was in the middle for Ross County’s 3-1 win over Celtic in last weekend’s eventful League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park.

Craig Thomson sends off Efe Ambrose (v Ross County)
Seeing red: Thomson gave Ambrose his marching orders after 13 minutes before County converted the resulting penalty (Picture from BBC Scotland)

He sent off Celtic defender Efe Ambrose for a last-man foul on Alex Schalk and pointed to the spot, but allowed Paul Quinn’s goal to stand despite an apparent foul by Schalk on Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon in the build-up.

County substitute Brian Graham was also harshly penalised for handball in the box for Leigh Griffiths’ missed penalty late on.

Thomson will oversee his fourth Hearts match of the campaign after their 2-1 win at Dundee in August, 3-2 League Cup victory at Kilmarnock in September and 1-0 defeat by Aberdeen in December, in which he penalised Jordon McGhee’s inexplicable handball for the late Dons spotkick.

His only Hibernian game of 2015-16 was their 2-1 Championship win over Livingston at Easter Road in November.

Craig Thomson (Dundee Utd v Celtic Scottish Cup - 8th Mar 15)
Last round: Thomson was in control of Partick Thistle’s 2-1 win over St Mirren in his home town of Paisley (Picture from Sky Sports)

Thomson will be remembered by fans of both clubs for taking charge of the 2012 Scottish Cup Final, during which he dismissed Hibs defender Pa Kujabi for a second yellow card and awarded Hearts a penalty for a foul which took place outside the box, with the score at 2-1.

Danny Grainger went on to convert the spotkick as Hearts ran out eventual 5-1 winners at the national stadium, with Thomson attracting criticism from the Hibs contingent for what they felt was a poor all-round display from the official.

Thomson, who was a construction lawyer before becoming a full-time official, is the most experienced of the current crop of Scottish referees having first taken up the whistle in 1988.

After two years in the Scottish Football League, he was promoted to the top-flight in 2002 and was elevated to the Fifa list just a year later.

Thomson was called up for the 2012 European Championships – his only major international tournament – but was overlooked for the 2014 World Cup and Willie Collum has been preferred as Scotland’s representative at Euro 2016.

Craig Thomson referee
For the big occasion: Thomson has handled three League Cup and three Scottish Cup finals as well as several semi-finals in both competitions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Hibernian won 1-0 at Easter Road in a fourth round tie in December 2012 when the two fierce rivals previously met in the Scottish Cup.

The Leith outfit also won 2-0 in the last meeting in the Championship last April although Hearts had already won the second-tier title.

Ahead of the 326th competitive derby, Hearts are third in the Premiership while Hibs sit eight points adrift of Championship leaders Rangers in second place.

Craig Thomson Edinburgh derby record (as of 2nd February 2016)

Given his history in this particular fixture, the appointment has not been welcomed by both sets of supporters…

Ref Andrew Dallas set for first Celtic match

Fifa referee Andrew Dallas will take charge of his first match involving Celtic this weekend when the Scottish Premiership leaders visit League One in the Scottish Cup.

Andrew Dallas referee (Falkirk v Raith Rovers - 27th Dec 2014)
New faces: Dallas – who has been fourth official for Celtic games in the past – will encounter Stranraer for the first time in almost 12 months (Picture from BBC ALBA)

REFEREE Andrew Dallas will take charge of his first Celtic match this weekend as the Hoops travel to Stranraer in the Scottish Cup.

The 27-year-old – who is the son of former World Cup referee Hugh – has enjoyed a meteoric rise having been on the Fifa list for two years already.

But he will be under a different spotlight when the Scottish Premiership champions visit the League One part-timers in a fourth-round tie expected to be watched by millions on Sky Sports on Sunday (KO 15:15 GMT).

Dallas will be assisted at Stair Park by Graeme Leslie and Stuart Hodge while Gavin Ross will be the fourth official.

The Lanarkshire-based official took charge of his first Premiership game in August 2014 and has officiated 13 more since.

But he was criticised last August by Inverness boss John Hughes, who was handed a touchline ban for claiming Dallas was “out of his depth” and “not ready for the top-flight” after handing out eight yellows and a red in a 1-1 draw with Dundee.

Dallas dished out another eight yellows in a fiery Petrofac Training Cup quarter-final at Ibrox in September as Rangers knocked out holders Livingston.

Rangers v Livingston - Petrofac Training Cup Quarter-Final
Tough times: Dallas failed to spot Hugo Faria’s elbow on Rangers’ Nathan Oduwa and let a number of other challenges go in a bruising encounter (Picture from Getty Images)

Dallas has brandished 59 yellow cards, sent off two players and awarded four penalties in 13 games in all competitions so far.

He put in a competent display in his only game of 2016 in the Renfrewshire derby in the Championship – issuing just four bookings as St Mirren won 1-0 at Morton.

Dallas has been an additional assistant referee and fourth official for a number of Europa League and international games while his main domestic appointment was a League Two play-off semi-final between Queen’s Park and Arbroath.

Ronny Deila on sidelines (v Aberdeen - 12th Sept 2015)
Top: Deila’s side hold a three-point lead at the Scottish Premiership summit with a game in hand on second-placed Aberdeen (Picture from Sky Sports)

36-time winners Celtic are bidding to win the oldest national trophy in world football for only the second time in the last five seasons after their 2013 triumph – and for the first time under boss Ronny Deila.

The Hoops thrashed Hearts 4-0 at Tynecastle last season at this stage before eventually being knocked out by Inverness in the semi-finals following a controversial 3-2 defeat in extra time – where Dallas was stood behind the goal and failed to spot Josh Meekings’ handball.

Stair Park main stand (Stranraer stadium v Dundee Utd - 8th Feb 2015)
Stair Park: Stranraer – the third oldest club in Scotland – holds 6,250 supporters (Picture from Sky Sports)

Stranraer finished second in their second season in the third-tier last term but lost 4-1 to Forfar in the play-off semi-finals and lost manager Stephen Aitken to Championship side Dumbarton.

The Blues – now under the stewardship of Brian Reid – knocked out fellow League One side Dunfermline after a replay at this stage a year ago but were beaten 3-0 at home by Dundee United in a televised fifth round tie.

The Dumfries-based outfit currently sit eighth in League One, two points above the relegation play-off place but have won their last two league games.

PREVIEW: 2015 Scottish Cup Final

Inverness Caledonian Thistle are hoping to claim the first major silverware of their 21-year history at Falkirk’s expense in the 2015 Scottish Cup Final on Saturday (KO 3pm).

Hampden Park (Hibernian v Falkirk Scottish Cup - 18th April 2015)
Falkirk are appearing at the national stadium for the fifth time since the turn of the century while Inverness will turn out at Hampden for the third time since 2000 (Picture from Sky Sports)

INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle are hoping to claim the first major silverware of their 21-year history at Falkirk’s expense in the 2015 Scottish Cup Final on Saturday (KO 3pm).

The Highlanders will be the favourites to clinch the trophy at Hampden Park after ending Celtic’s treble hopes with a thrilling extra-time win in last month’s semi-final.

John Hughes’s team have enjoyed a hugely successful campaign in which they secured their highest-ever league position and European football for the first time having finished third in the Premiership – 10 points behind second-placed Aberdeen.

Hughes has worked miracles since arriving at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium 18 months ago and was deservedly acknowledged for his efforts this year by winning the PFA Scotland and Scottish Football Writers’ Manager of the Year awards.

John Hughes (Inverness boss at Hampden v Celtic - 19th April 2015)
Familiar face: Hughes managed Falkirk for six years but has also been in the dugout at Hibernian, Livingston and Hartlepool (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, midfielder Ryan Christie scooped the Young Player of the Year prizes after an impressive debut campaign for the 20-year-old who was attracted widespread interest including Premier League teams in England.

Now in their first-ever Scottish Cup Final appearance, they will be desperate to overcome their Championship opponents to make this special season even more memorable.

Falkirk have not celebrated success since lifting the Ramsdens Cup in 2012 and the last time the Bairns appeared in the end-of-season showpiece, they were led out at the national stadium by now-Inverness boss Hughes in 2009 before their unfortunate 1-0 defeat to Rangers.

A year later, their current manager Peter Houston guided Dundee United to Scottish Cup glory with a 3-0 victory over Ross County in his first managerial role.

Peter Houston (Falkirk boss at Hampden as pundit - 19th April 2015)
Routine: The former Scotland assistant manager, 56, will name his Falkirk team two days before the game and stay in the same hotel as the Dundee United squad did in 2010 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Now the former Falkirk striker is looking to steer the Central Scotland club to a third triumph in one of world football’s most famous and oldest competitions – but the last came back in 1957.

The Bairns – who edged past fellow Championship side Hibernian in the semis courtesy of a Craig Sibbald header – will face Premiership opponents in the tournament for the first time during this season’s magnificent journey.

They finished fifth in the second-tier – seven points adrift of the play-offs – and have not played since the regular season ended on May 2.

Hibernian and Falkirk players at Hampden (18th April 2015)
End-of-season struggles: Falkirk won just one of their final five league fixtures (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Since then, Houston has used the time to study the strengths and weaknesses of Caley Thistle but is not worried about a lack of match sharpness the squad may have from not playing competitively for four weeks.

“It’s something that probably has to be looked at, but we won’t make it an excuse if it doesn’t go our way,” he said in a pre-match interview with BBC Scotland.

“A bit of freshness might do us good. The fitness levels are very good, but you do miss competitive games.

“Last week, we had games against young Burnley and Swansea sides. That was the best we could get at this particular time.

“But if you can’t get the players up for a cup final then there’s no chance of ever getting them up.”

Although they will be underdogs in many eyes against their top-flight counterparts, Falkirk have demonstrated their ability to upset the big boys this term.

They were the only team to win at the home of Championship title winners Hearts, drawn twice with Rangers and lost only one of their five meetings with Hibernian.

And the Bairns are set to be boosted by the return from injury of 12-goal top scorer Rory Loy, who is set to make his final appearance before joining Dundee this summer.

Graeme Shinnie (Inverness full-back v Celtic - 19th April 2015)
Shining light: Shinnie has been inspirational for Inverness this term and has stood in as captain for the injured Richie Foran (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, it will be a farewell outing for Inverness full-back Graham Shinnie with the 23-year-old moving to Aberdeen having signed a pre-contract agreement back in January.

The Scotsman was snubbed by Gordon Strachan when the Scotland manager named his squad for the Qatar friendly and Republic of Ireland qualifier next month but will be desperate to sign off his six-year Caley Thistle career in style.

It will be an occasion that will be particularly special for local boy Nick Ross, who was born in Inverness and has played for his hometown club for his entire career thus far.

“I’ve dreamt of this all my life, but you can’t let it get in your head,” said the 23-year-old midfielder. “I think everyone in primary school is dreaming of this when they are playing in the playground – to be playing in the Cup final, to score and to lift the trophy.”

“We know it’s not going to be easy and will be a tough test. But, after the semi-final, we got a lot of confidence and we are confident we can do it.”

Inverness fans at full-time (Scottish Cup semi v Celtic - 19th April 2015)
Out in force: Caley Thistle were well-represented inside the national stadium in the semi-finals despite their long trip for a lunchtime kick-off (Picture from Sky Sports)

Caley Thistle were backed by around 15,000 supporters from the Highlands last month as they came from behind to stun Ronny Deila’s Celtic, who have won the two other major domestic honours available in the Premiership title and League Cup.

And Hughes is hoping another mass turnout at Hampden could help boost attendances for regular league games, which have averaged at 3,700 this season.

“The only way to play your part is to do what we’re doing and get into Europe and cup finals,” he told BBC Scotland.

“I’m quite sure we’ll take 15,000-20,000 down to the cup final and hopefully we’ll give them a good day.

“This year, getting for the first time in the club’s history that Europa League spot through the league placing. That’s your bread and butter. That tells you how good a team you are throughout the season.

“Then the Scottish Cup final. If we can go and win it, it would be remarkable.”

Marley Watkins (Inverness forward v Celtic - 19th April 2015)
Threat: The ex-Hereford winger has scored eight goals in all competitions so far this term (Picture from Sky Sports)

Like Falkirk, Hughes has had to work under a shoestring budget at Caley Thistle, who have been in the Premiership for six seasons, but he has stamped his authority by imposing an attractive blueprint on a settled team of talented individuals.

Despite their defensive solidity, the main concern has been goals with their top scorer this season – Irish striker Billy McKay with 10 league strikes – having left in January to join Wigan.

Edward Ofore (Inverness striker v Celtic - 19th April 2015)
Impact: The 29-year-old Nigerian striker has struck six goals in 12 appearances since signing in February but is out of contract after the cup final (Picture from Sky Sports)

Inverness are looking to go one better than last year’s Scottish League Cup when their first appearance in a major cup final ended in penalty shoot-out agony against Aberdeen.

They are hoping to emulate the feat of St Johnstone, who also claimed the first silverware in their 130-year existence in last season’s Scottish Cup Final with their 2-0 victory over Tayside rivals Dundee United at Celtic Park.

But Falkirk have a habit of performing on the big stage which belies the status of a second-tier club they have held since their relegation from the SPL in 2010.

The Bairns have won four of the last five meetings with Inverness but the two sides have not crossed paths since a top-flight encounter in May 2009 when Falkirk won in the Highlands to secure their survival and simultaneously relegate Caley Thistle.

Tickets for the ‘Family Final’ are as low as £60 for a family of four after the SFA announced a reduced ticket pricing policy with concessions able to attend for just £5.

St Johnstone are particularly interested spectators of the final at Hampden. A win for Inverness would see the Perth side, who finished fourth in the Premiership, earn a place in the Europa League qualifiers next season while Falkirk will take that spot should they lift the silverware.

 

ROUTE TO THE FINAL:

Falkirk forward Craig Sibbald (v Dumbarton - 20th Dec 2014)
Match-winner: The 20-year-old has scored the only goal of the game in three of their four Scottish Cup ties this term (Picture from BBC ALBA)

Falkirk:

Round Four                   1-0 win v Cowdenbeath (H)
Fifth Round                   2-1 win v Brechin City (H)
Quarter-Final                1-0 win v Queen of the South (A)
Semi-Final                     1-0 win v Hibernian (N)

 

Tulloch Caledonian Stadium (Inverness Caley Thistle)
Home sweet home: Two of Inverness’ five Scottish Cup ties have been at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium while they have faced three Premiership opponents

Inverness:

Round Four                        1-1 draw v St Mirren (A)
Round Four Replay
           4-0 win v St Mirren (H)
Round Five                         2-1 win v Partick Thistle (A)
Quarter-Final                     1-0 win v Raith Rovers (H)
Semi-Final                          3-2 win v Celtic (N) * After Extra Time

 

LAST 10 SCOTTISH CUP FINALS:

Celtic Scottish Cup winners 2013 - Scott Brown lifts the trophy
Hands on the cup: Celtic captain Scott Brown lifts the trophy as the Hoops claimed the prize for the 36th time to complete Neil Lennon’s only domestic double in charge

2014              St Johnstone 2-0 Dundee United
2013              Celtic 3-0 Hibernian
2012              Hearts 5-1 Hibernian
2011              Celtic 3-0 Motherwell
2010              Dundee United 3-0 Ross County
2009              Rangers 1-0 Falkirk
2008              Queen of the South 2-3 Rangers
2007              Celtic 1-0 Dunfermline
2006              Hearts 1-1 Gretna AET (Hearts won 4-2 on penalties)
2005              Celtic 1-0 Dundee United

 

TEAM NEWS:

Inverness CT
Previous team: How Inverness lined up against Celtic in their final Scottish Premiership game last weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

Inverness boss Hughes made six changes to the starting line-up that ended their league campaign with a 5-0 hammering at champions Celtic last Sunday – which halted their three-game winning run – to rest several key first-team players at home.

Lewis Horner and Tarmo Kink were given their first starts while Liam Polworth, Danny Devine, Nick Ross and Carl Tremarco also received rare outings.

Gary Warren booked (to miss Scottish Cup Final - 19th April 2015)
Distraught: The former Newport County defender also missed the Scottish League Cup final last season through suspension (Picture from Sky Sports)

Centre-back Gary Warren is banned after receiving his second booking in the Scottish Cup this season in the semi-final win over Celtic.

However, fellow defender Josh Meekings was cleared to play after the ramifications of the incident against the Hoops which should have seen him sent off for deliberate handball.

Midfielder Nick Ross will be desperate to be in the starting line-up for his hometown club and could make his final outing with his contract due to expire after this game.

Falkirk forward Rory Loy (man of the match v Dumbarton - 20th Dec 2014)
No goals: Former Carlisle and Rangers forward Loy is yet to score in this season’s Scottish Cup (Picture from BBC ALBA)

Falkirk welcome back top scorer Rory Loy – who has not featured since March 6 because of an ankle injury – but the 27-year-old could have to be content with a place on the bench.

Fellow striker John Baird – who has scored seven goals since joining in February following his release by Queen of the South – and midfielder Mark Kerr are both cup-tied.

Houston, though, could name a similar side to the one which beat Hibernian in the semi-finals with defender Will Vaulks again occupying a defensive midfield position.

Jamie MacDonald (Falkirk goalkeeper in pre-season friendly)
Previous winner: Falkirk keeper Jamie MacDonald has a Scottish Cup winners’ medal with Hearts from their 2012 triumph

 

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS:

                                         Falkirk

Falkirk predicted XI v Inverness (2015 Scottish Cup Final)

Inverness 

Inverness predicted XI v Falkirk (2015 Scottish Cup Final)

 

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Referee:  Willie Collum
Assistant Referees:  Douglas Ross and Alastair Mather
Fourth Official:  Crawford Allan
Additional Assistant Referees:  Andrew Dallas and Don Robertson

In control: Collum was on duty for St Johnstone's 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Ibrox in April
In control: Collum was on duty for St Johnstone’s 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup semi-finals last season (Picture from Sky Sports)

It will be a second Scottish Cup Final in the middle for Religious Education teacher Collum after handling the 2013 showpiece between Hibernian and Celtic.

The 36-year-old Fifa whistler – who was appointed to a Champions League quarter-final in April – will be at the helm for his 48th match of the season in all competitions.

The Glasgow-born referee has been a Category One official since 2006 and also took charge of the 2012 Scottish League Cup Final when Celtic lost 1-0 to Kilmarnock.

Read more on Collum’s appointment here

 

Willie Collum to referee 2015 Scottish Cup Final

Willie Collum will referee his second Scottish Cup Final when Falkirk meet Inverness Caley Thistle at Hampden Park on Saturday, May 30.

Willie Collum referee (Dundee United v Celtic - 26th April 2015)
Mainstay: Collum has overseen 26 Premiership games so far this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE Willie Collum will take charge of his second Scottish Cup Final when Inverness Caledonian Thistle face Falkirk on Saturday, May 30.

The 36-year-old will oversee the 2015 showpiece at Hampden Park as the Highlanders of the Scottish Premiership take on the Bairns of the Scottish Championship at the end of the month.

He will be assisted by linesmen Douglas Ross and Alastair Mather while the fourth official will be the experienced Crawford Allan.

This season’s newly promoted top-flight officials Andrew Dallas and Don Robertson will act as additional assistant referees.

Collum was in the middle for the 2013 final when Celtic beat Hibernian 3-0 while his only other cup final outing came in the 2012 League Cup Final as Celtic lost 1-0 to Kilmarnock.

He was also on electronic board duties for the 2011 League Cup Final and 2012 Scottish Cup Final.

The Religious Education teacher in Belshill oversaw arguably the biggest game of his career to date last month when Monaco hosted Juventus at the Stade Louis II in the Champions League quarter-final second leg.

during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between FC Bayern Muenchen and FC Shakhtar Donetsk at Allianz Arena on March 11, 2015 in Munich, Germany.
Red: Collum sent off Shakhtar Donetsk’s Aleksandr Kucher against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16 earlier this year (Picture from Getty Images)

He has refereed 45 games in all competitions so far this term – brandishing 136 yellow cards, 15 red cards and awarding 18 penalties.

His latest match was the crucial relegation clash between Motherwell and Kilmarnock last Friday night in the Premiership.

Collum has already encountered Inverness in four league games and a Scottish Cup tie at Partick Thistle this term.

He has also officiated two Falkirk games in the second tier against Hibernian and Rangers since the turn of the year.

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.

However, he endured a controversial start to 2015 domestically.

Collum awarded four penalties and sent off four players in his first two matches of the new year but saw the red cards he gave to St Mirren’s Kenny McLean and Motherwell defender Stephen McManus overturned by the Scottish Football Association’s judicial panel.

Collum was then dropped from the Premiership for two weeks before he and assistant referee David McGeachie failed to award a goal when Adam Rooney’s shot struck the underside of the crossbar before bouncing a foot over the line in Aberdeen’s 3-0 win at Hamilton in February.

He was also slammed by Hibernian boss Alan Stubbs in March for failing to spot a foul by Lee Wallace on Paul Hanlon in the build-up to Kenny Miller’s clinching goal for Rangers in their 2-0 win at Easter Road.

Collum was also at the helm for the friendly between the Netherlands and Spain in a repeat of the 2010 World Cup Final at the end of March.

Glasgow-born Collum – a father to three daughters – first took up the whistle at the age of 14 and has been a Category One official since June 2004.

He was promoted to the Scottish Premier League a year later and was first included on the Fifa list of international referees in 2006.

Willie Collum in action (Hearts 0-4 Celtic - 30th Nov 2014)
Up and coming: Collum will take charge of the Championship play-off final second leg between Alloa and Forfar on Sunday evening (Picture from Sky Sports)

Domestically, Collum – who refereed the 2013 Scottish Cup Final and 2012 Scottish League Cup Final as well as several domestic cup semi-finals – is now regarded by many as Scotland’s leading whistler, overtaking Craig Thomson in that respect.

He has taken charge of two Old Firm and four Edinburgh derbies in total.

Meanwhile, on the European front, he has been a Uefa Category One official since 2012 and has officiated Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona already in the Champions League this campaign as well as two European Championship qualifiers in an international capacity.

Last season, Craig Thomson handled his third Scottish Cup Final as St Johnstone overcame Tayside rivals Dundee United to lift their first major trophy at Celtic Park.

Like the Saints, Inverness are bidding for a maiden piece of silverware in their 21-year history to crown a magnificent campaign in which they have secured European football for the first time and John Hughes has been named PFA Scotland Manager of the Year.

Hughes was boss of Falkirk when they were last in the Scottish Cup Final in 2009. A year later, Peter Houston was triumphant with Dundee United in the same competition.

Now, the Bairns boss is back at the national stadium as Falkirk – who are currently vying for a place in the Premiership via the play-offs – seek their first silverware since the Challenge Cup in 2012.

The 15:00 BST kick-off will be screened live both on BBC Scotland and Sky Sports.