'Dreaming of the final whistle & nobody talking about me' - A week in the life of Willie Collum

Willie Collum graphic

On Saturday, Willie Collum will take charge of his third Scottish Cup final. For a referee who has officiated at a European Championships and high-profile Champions League ties, the magic of Scotland's oldest cup competition hasn't lost any of its power. Here, the 40-year-old tells us what life is like on cup final week for the man in the middle.

It may be the showpiece of the Scottish football season, but my cup final week began with 7am shuttle runs and plonking myself in an ice bath.

Some people may think referees just turn up at a game, but that couldn't be further from the truth. When I came into refereeing, we would be out on the road running for 45 minutes. Now all my training is done on the pitch the same as the players, whether it be interval runs or goal-line to goal-line sprints.

My training is dictated by Uefa. Every single night, my data is sent away on an app to the head of fitness and he analyses the Uefa Elite referees' training over a monthly period, but he also offers guidance.

Exercise takes up around eight hours per week of a referee's life - and, even then, there's lots more involved. Sadly, I don't play five-a-sides or anything like that in case I get an injury. I did play football when I was younger. I always wanted to be a goalkeeper. That was always my ambition, but, thankfully, it never worked out.

Looming Towers and Turkish delight

Away from box-to-box runs, freezing cold water and early rises, there is a lot of excitement to soak up this week.

On Monday, I gave a walking tour of what the referee team will have to do when Saturday comes and hopefully it gives a unique insight. It's important to hear referees, especially when it's not about decisions, VAR or anything like that.

It's a more nerve-wracking week than normal because of the intensity and the scrutiny. I'd be a fool if I said to you all that there's not any extra pressure, or I'm not thinking about the game. I'm no different from the players. They'll be dreaming of scoring the winning goal at Hampden, I'm dreaming of blowing the final whistle and nobody is talking about me.

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Watch: A day in the life of a Scottish Cup final referee

It can be hard to switch off this week, but you do try. I've been watching the box set, The Looming Tower, and I managed to catch the highlights of the play-off between Dundee United and St Mirren on Thursday too.

I've already had about 60 messages of support on my phone. One of my closest friends in refereeing is one of the top referees in the world, Cuneyt Cakir, from Turkey. He refereed the Liverpool game the other week when they came back against Barcelona. On Friday morning, he sent me a message wishing me well.

We met in 2006 when we were on the Fifa list together and we've been very close since. We'll always spend the weekend sending each other clips of incidents or bits of the match to get the other person's view. He's very honest and you need a critical friend who will tell you the truth.

New Zealand dollars & emotional memories

In the blink of an eye, it's almost time to go. The bag is packed and sitting at the door, the radio communication equipment is ready, the special New Zealand dollar, which is the coin that is traditionally tossed before the match, is safely tucked away.

On Saturday, the biggest feeling is waiting for 3pm. You just want to blow that whistle and get the day under way.

My two uncles and father-in-law will be at the game. In previous finals, my wife has gone, but she'll be busy with the kids. With four daughters, they are too busy dancing to be going to football, but I am keen to take them to the Scotland v Jamaica match on Tuesday. I'll see how my game goes first.

There will be plenty going through my mind. My mother and father were very working-class people from the east end of Glasgow and I'm an only child. When I was 14, my mother came through with the newspaper to show me there were refereeing classes starting. Every Monday night, she'd take me in a bus to the city and walk me up to Strathclyde University in the middle of winter then get the bus to bring me back.

I lost my mum not long after I'd been to the Euros in 2016 through a terrible illness, Alzheimer's, after five years. She didn't really see me at the Euros and my dad passed away in February this year. They were great role models for me because they were hard-working, honest people. That's who I'd like to think I am as a person.

Whenever I walk out at that tunnel, they both will be in my thoughts. I'm sure they will be with me running about at Hampden on that pitch.

Willie Collum was speaking to BBC Scotland's Scott Mullen

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