Rangers reaction: bizarre Willie Collum Rangers/Celtic stat; 49 penalties for, none against; super surface
Unless we have been lumbering under a misapprehension, Willie Collum is what the red tops would have once referred to as “one of our top whistlers”. Yet, delve into his deployment in recent seasons, and a pattern emerges that feels at odds with that. His attention-claiming antics at Ibrox on Saturday were significant beyond shaping the encounter that gave Michael Beale the ninth victory of a ten-game unbeaten spell at the Rangers helm. They represented the product of Collum’s first league game at one of the Glasgow citadels this season. Yup, that means he hasn’t not only officiated at Celtic Park this season, he has not done so there in more than a year. Before this weekend, his last Premiership game at Ibrox – he took charge of Rangers’ home Viaplay Cup match against Dundee earlier this season – was the foremost of top flight fixtures in the form of the title rivals’ tussle last April. You begin to wonder if his superiors at the SFA are sometimes protecting the UEFA-listed referee from himself.
To put it in the mildest fashion, Collum’s eccentric applications of the rules so often seems to make him a magnet for eye-rolling bemusement. His flawed judgements as he made three huge calls that seemed to ill-serve St Johnstone provide a classic Collum character study. He appears a decent fella in his civvies, but when he steps on to a football pitch he seems afflicted by a desire to prove that he has an understanding of the regulations that allows him to see situations in a manner beyond the ken of mere mortals. Basically, it feels then as if he is assessing transgressions practically in an obtuse fashion.
He can be forgiven the handball penalty award against James Brown for the ball deflecting on to his outstretched arm via Connor Goldson’s back just in front of him. The St Johnstone player’s limb out from his body because he had been using it for leverage in challenging with the Rangers defender for a ball slung into the box. The law is an ass. How he could be so random in his card flashing thereafter is a mystery, though. As St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson and Sportscene analysts James McFadden and Michael Stewart expertly dissected, Nicky Clark was given a red for no earthly reason following a clash with Ryan Jack in the 34th minute. Clark was initially tugged back to cause him to lose his footing, and any further movement he made forward after skimming the ball was more than matched by Jack’s from the opposing direction. The contact then was knee-to-knee. A classic coming together.
Collum delayed before showing red. Then VAR, with Nick Walsh the adjudicator, seemed to involve itself of its own volition by endorsing Collum’s call with a screen announcement. Normally, without a referee having consulted his on-screen monitor, such moments have been reserved for non-subjective rulings on offsides. All very strange. As was Collum decreeing minutes later a caution sufficed when a clearly narked Jack steamed in, off the ground and with full force and straight leg, to clatter Adam Montgomery on the shin. Late, reckless, with excessive force and endangering of an opponent – McFadden adjudged there was no attempt whatsoever to play the ball – the threshold for a red card appeared met on various fronts. Walsh certainly thought Collum had made a clear and obvious error in showing only a yellow. Only for Collum to consult his pitchside monitor and ignore what his eyes were showing him, Walsh any the vast majority who viewed the incident. In doing so he became the first referee to effectively over-rule VAR in the vexing three months since it was introduced to the Scottish top flight. Fair or otherwise, you get the impression that his unprecedented rebelling without cause will appeal to Collum, the man who knows better.
A total of 49 penalties for, none against
In a quirk, the figure 49 covered both the penalty phenemenons in play at Ibrox. James Tavernier’s clinical conversion marked the 49th penalty that the Rangers captain has tucked away for his club, his return from 59 attempts. Meanwhile, the Ibrox side are only one game short of reaching the half century for consecutive domestic games without the concession of a penalty. A sequence that stretches back just over a year, it is underpinned by 40 cinch Premiership games without giving away a spot kick.
Scottish pitches, rightly, have been given a kicking in recent times, so grassless, lifeless and gluey has the sodden climate made them. Not so Ibrox. The surface looked close to its summer best. Lush, bouncy, bowling-green like, the toppest of top marks to the club’s groundsfolk.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.