The match official appointments have been made for the semi-finals of the 2017-18 William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park.
Bobby Madden will take charge of the eagerly anticipated Old Firm derby clash between holders Celtic and Rangers on Sunday, April 15. Kick-off will be at 14:30 BST and the game will be screened live on Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, Kevin Clancy will be in the middle for Motherwell against Aberdeen on Saturday, April 14. The 12:15 BST kick-off will be shown live on Sky Sports and BBC One Scotland.
BOBBY GETS THE BIG ONE
It was always going to be interesting to see who would be selected to officiate what is always likely to be an explosive affair, as the two Glasgow giants go head to head for a place in the final.
With Willie Collum taking charge of the most recent Old Firm clash, in the league at Ibrox last month, he was seemingly out of the equation, while Craig Thomson handled two recent semi-final showdowns between the sides in the cups – and the first league encounter this season.
Aside from Scottish football’s two leading referees, it didn’t leave many options who have significant experience of this most tempestuous of fixtures.
Andrew Dallas is yet to receive his Old Firm derby initiation but, although he is making considerable progress, it would have been a huge gamble to appoint him to an occasion with so much riding on it, and unfair on the official himself to effectively throw him into the deep end on the big stage.
Kevin Clancy is also awaiting his first taste of one of the fiercest rivalries in world football, while John Beaton was eased into the spotlight when handed the final league derby of last season – awarding a penalty inside six minutes as Celtic cruised to a 5-1 victory at Ibrox almost 12 months ago.
With two Old Firm derbies already under his belt, it left last season’s Scottish Cup final official Madden as the main contender for the role and he has now been duly appointed – a wise move given what’s at stake.
Not only is it another feather in his cap, it is also more vital experience of the biggest of games that every referee in Scotland wants to officiate for the highly-rated 39-year-old – and his first Old Firm derby away from Parkhead.
The Fifa whistler caused outrage among Celtic fans when he waved away claims for a penalty in the last minute of last season’s 1-1 draw, after Leigh Griffiths fell under a challenge from Clint Hill.
But he had a solid game when the sides played out a goalless draw just after Christmas in the league.
Madden booked two players and performed well as Celtic beat Aberdeen 2-1 in the 2017 Scottish Cup final at Hampden to complete a domestic treble without losing a game.
That was his second major domestic final at the national stadium after handling Celtic’s 2-0 win over Dundee United in the 2015 League Cup final, in which he sent off United skipper Sean Dillon early in the second half.
The East Kilbride official has refereed 35 games so far this season across six different competitions – dishing out 116 bookings and five red cards, as well as awarding 12 penalties.
Madden was in the middle for Northern Ireland’s recent 2-1 international friendly win over South Korea and his most recent outing was Hibernian’s 1-1 draw at Ross County in the Scottish Premiership last weekend, in which he booked two players.
He will be assisted on the day by David McGeachie and Graeme Stewart. Don Robertson and Nick Walsh will act as additional assistants behind each goal, while Steven McLean is the fourth official.
RECENT OLD FIRM DERBY REFEREES:
11 Mar 2018: Rangers 2 Celtic 3 (Scottish Premiership) – Willie Collum
30 Dec 2017: Celtic 0 Rangers 0 (Scottish Premiership) – Bobby Madden
23 Sept 2017: Rangers 0 Celtic 2 (Scottish Premiership) – Craig Thomson
29 April 2017: Rangers 1 Celtic 5 (Scottish Premiership) – John Beaton
23 April 2017: Celtic 2 Rangers 0 (Scottish Cup) – Willie Collum
12 March 2017: Celtic 1 Rangers 1 (Scottish Premiership) – Bobby Madden
31 Dec 2016: Rangers 1 Celtic 2 (Scottish Premiership) – Steven McLean
23 Oct 2016: Rangers 0 Celtic 1 (Scottish League Cup) – Craig Thomson
10 Sept 2016: Celtic 5 Rangers 1 (Scottish Premiership) – Willie Collum
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION
Perhaps predictably, there was a largely negative reaction to news of Madden’s appointment for the Scottish Cup semi-final blockbuster, with many fans from both sides of the derby divide taking to Twitter to have their say…
MORE RECOGNITION FOR CLANCY
Clancy has been chosen to take charge of the first of the two semi-final ties – another sign of his excellent progress and how well-regarded he is by the Scottish FA.
He also took charge of a League Cup semi-final earlier in the season, awarding Hibernian a contentious penalty which gave them brief hope in their 4-2 defeat against Celtic back in October.
His other major match at Hampden Park was the 2016 Scottish League Cup final, booking two players as Ross County scored late on to lift the trophy for the first time with a 2-1 victory over Hibernian.
Clancy was recently subjected to a barrage of abuse from Hibs head coach Neil Lennon after sending him to the stand in the Edinburgh side’s 2-2 draw against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, following the award of a controversial penalty to Killie in the second half.
It led to Lennon slamming the refereeing standards in Scotland and claiming that managers should be able to send off officials. His comments and furious reaction led to him being given a three-match touchline ban.
It’s been another season in which the 34-year-old Fifa official has made giant strides, overseeing UEFA Youth League games, Europa League qualifiers, Euro Under-19 Championship qualifiers and European Under-21 Championship qualifiers.
On the domestic front, he also took charge of Motherwell’s 3-0 League Cup quarter-final triumph over Aberdeen and the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie between Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian.
Clancy has officiated 36 games in all competitions so far in 2017/18, brandishing a massive 153 yellow cards and sending off five players, as well as pointing to the penalty spot six times.
His most recent outing was in Dundee’s 1- 1 draw with Hearts at Dens Park on 1 April. He had a busy first half in particular, booking six players including Hearts striker Kyle Lafferty for diving but he has since had his yellow card rescinded.
He will be assisted on the day by Douglas Ross MP and David Roome, with Greg Aitken on electronic board duties as the fourth official. Andrew Dallas and Alan Muir will be the additional assistant referees.
HAVE YOUR SAY…
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