BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Willie Collum will take charge of his first Hearts game since a high-profile bust-up with Robbie Neilson when the Jambos face Inverness Caledonian Thistle this weekend.
Collum came under fire following the capital club’s 3-2 defeat against Hamilton in August, with the controversial whistler sending off Callum Paterson for a challenge on Darian MacKinnon.
That red card was subsequently reduced to a yellow on appeal – the third dismissal Collum had overturned in 2015 – however the bad feeling between the official and Hearts boss Neilson rumbled on.
Neilson remarked following the fixture that his side had trained with 10-men prior to the Premiership clash due to Collum’s reputation for dishing out the cards.
He stated: “In the recent past, the statistics involving the officials have shown a lot of red cards against us, so we have to prepare for it. The next time we get these officials, we will again train with 10 men.”
Those comments landed Neilson a suspended two-match ban from the SFA for implying ’bias or incompetence’. However he subsequently insisted that he would bear no grudge towards Collum when he next oversees a Hearts match.
He said: “There’s no issue [with Collum] at all. From my point of view, it’s done and dusted. What was said at the time was said.”
Nevertheless, the refereeing department has not handed the official a fixture involving the Gorgie outfit in the five months following the clash.
Collum, who has not actually sent a player off since October 21, will be assisted by Anthony Cooper and Douglas Ross, while Gavin Ross will act as fourth official.
Hearts face city rivals Hibernian in their long-awaited Scottish Cup fifth round tie the following Sunday – with key defender Igor Rossi already absent – and will be desperate to avoid incurring any further suspensions.