Pat FENLON has urged his players to ignore the fact two extra officials will be watching their every move at Hampden tomorrow, telling them: “Play your own game.”
For the first time, Scottish Cup final referee Willie Collum will be supported by additional assistants, with John Beaton and Bobby Madden patrolling behind each goal, while Willie Conquer and Martin Cryans run the lines and Adam Mulvanny acts as fourth official.
It is, of course, a practice widespread in a number of leagues around Europe, as well as in European competition. It is one which Celtic’s players will be accustomed to, thanks to their endeavours in reaching the last 16 of the Champions League this season, but it will be a new concept for Fenlon’s side, albeit one which the Hibs boss believes should have little impact other than, he hopes, ensuring the big decisions are spot-on.
Last sesaon Hibs were left raging when referee Craig Thomson awarded Hearts a penalty when Suso Santana went tumbling under Pa Kujabi’s challenge, which clearly took place outside the box. Now Collum will have the benefit of two more pairs of eyes, with the SFA planning to extend the use of additional assistants to the semi-final stage next season.
However, revealing there has been no explanation of how the extra officials will operate on the day, Fenlon said: “We’ll treat it as we normally do and respect the officials. The more of them there are, the more you think they’ll get the big decisions right, so we’ll let them get on with it. The players were given advice by referees at the beginning of the season; no-one has said anything different since so we’ll play the game as we normally would.”