Blowing the whistle, former referee on Willie Collum’s Ibrox performance

I wanted to let the dust really settle before putting my thoughts down for The Celtic Star.

Leading up to Sunday’s match at Ibrox I was a bit apprehensive. I exchanged a few emails with my good friend John Woods in Irvine who sends me interesting bits and pieces of news and comment that I would not normally see in Manchester. Being honest we were both concerned for different reasons as to how the match would turn out.

How many times have many of us described this season as strange in as much we have not always played to our best and yet going into Sunday we were in a strong position with nothing to worry about? The destiny of the title was very much in our own hands come what may.

Why, then, was I worried? I can answer that in five words. Willie Collum and his assistants! Yes we could have played badly and lost. Yes we could have had one of those days when the ball just did not run for us and so on. Potentially those situations are with us constantly but Mr Collum always worries me. The former referee in me reminds me of two brave and very decisive decisions that he has given this season.

The first was in November on the Wednesday after the Betfred Cup Final when he awarded us that late, late penalty. A stonewaller as it happens but he was probably the only man in the stadium who saw it. He could have ignored it but he was decisive, bordering on the emphatic, as he pointed to the penalty spot. The second was at Ibrox at the beginning of February when he awarded Hibs a penalty in somewhat similar circumstances and had no hesitation in doing so. Again he could have let it go. There stands a courageous man. There stands a brave and decisive referee. And yet….

We can all recall several occasions when he has produced totally baffling decisions in innocuous incidents and seriously causing us to shake our heads in amazement. At this point I should remind us all of the mantra of one of my referee coaches. One that we should remember even if only after the heat of battle. “No one sees what the referee sees.” In other words he is the ONLY person who sees that particular incident from that particular angle. Let me try to prove it to you.

I watched the match on television with my son Mike at his house. Phil one of my other boys was there too and we sat three side by side on the sofa looking straight at the television. When Tom Rogic equalised Phil and I did not react until the ball came back off the net and it was clear that it had entered the goal. Suddenly the three of us are jumping up and down and shouting our heads off. When we have all calmed down a little Mike says, “I wondered what was wrong. I was about to leap up but when you two just sat there I wondered what was going on.” Mike was certain that we had scored but Phil and I could not be sure as to which side of the goalpost the ball had gone.

And yet I still worry about Mr Collum. On Sunday some of decisions in the second half were highly debatable to say the least (I know, I know no one sees what the referee sees!) Some of the cautions (yellow cards) that he issued were mystifying as were some other rulings. Who would be a referee?

Finally from Sunday I want to look at Jozo’s red card. At the time I was convinced that it was correct. I have looked at it several times since. Now I do not think that it is as bad as it looked at the time but I still have no doubt that it was the correct to send him off. Two other related points concern me. Both are in connection with the criticism of the assistant who advised the referee of what he had seen. To a great extent I can understand why some people are accusing him of being in a great hurry to ensure that our player received his marching orders.

As a matter of course before the match starts the referee will (as we said in my day) give the linesmen their instructions. This would be which touchline each will run, will they stay there in the second half so that they are then patrolling offside with the other defenders and the other attackers or will they move and have the same attackers and defenders. How will they signal to the referee if  they see a foul or a penalty or when a goal is scored. How and when will they signal to the referee that time is about to expire at the end of each half plus much more.

In a high pressure and vital match such as Sunday’s they might consider how will they handle such a potentially explosive incident as this should it occur. I have described how on two occasions Willie Collum was fast and decisive. There was no doubt what he had given. This time perhaps the assistant realised the possible flare up which might occur and was trying to prevent that. Remember that as fans we are looking to the match officials to be clear and precise. The players want that even more. That way we know where we stand. Certainly there were no on field repercussions. The incident was handled with the minimum of fuss. Good officiating!


This was my, my, my Beautiful Sunday

“There is surely no denyin’, wi’oor captain Willie Lyon, we will win the Scottish Cup once again,” a pre-war Celtic chant

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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