Bobby Madden admits he never thought he would be getting set to take charge of the Scottish Cup final after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.
The referee was preparing to head to Euro 2016 as part of Willie Collum’s officiating team before he was diagnosed but delayed treatment so he could join his fellow officials at the finals in France.
He took charge of Celtic’s 4-1 win over Aberdeen in August at Parkhead before going for surgery and returned to the pitch two months later.
Now Madden is set to take charge as the two sides meet again, this time in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1, and he says that while it may not have been something he anticipated at one time, he is honoured to be refereeing the showpiece.
“The season started with the European Championships in France as part of Willie Collum’s team but just prior to leaving I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and delayed the treatment until after the tournament,” he told Sky Sports News HQ.
Celtic vs Aberdeen
May 27, 2017, 2:00pm
“So I had a slow start to the season, I was out being treated and had an operation and since then the season has really gone very well for me. I actually feel better because I think the condition I suffered, I probably had for two or three years so I actually feel far better now I have returned to refereeing.
“It gives you a little bit of perspective, I’m totally focused on my refereeing, I’m not working currently, I am focused totally on my refereeing so since I have returned I really feel the benefits of that.
“I wouldn’t have thought [he would take charge of the cup final]. I was hoping just to come back and referee, to be honest.
“Through the year as your performances are okay and you know they are starting to discuss who the cup final referee may be, you just hope to be considered and then when the call comes to say you’ve been appointed it is a fantastic achievement and an absolute honour.”
Madden admits he may start to feel nervous as the kick-off approaches but insists he is preparing for the game like any other fixture.
“I feel okay just now, I think I might be nervous Friday evening into Saturday morning but I’m preparing along with the team the way I do for any other match but I’m well aware of how important the match is,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to trust yourself, it is a big match, there is so much at stake, the cup final is always seen as the most prestigious game of the season.
“But I’ll prepare as normal as regards preparation and looking at team tactics, set pieces and how the teams may be set up on the day and discuss with my team what might happen but to try something different on a cup final day would be madness so I’ll be focused as normal.”
Madden’s last game before going away for treatment was between Celtic and Aberdeen and while he is expecting another good match, the referee says he will have done his job if no one mentions him or his performance after the final whistle.
“It was a very close match up until late on when Celtic got a couple of late goals to make it look more convincing than it probably was on the day. Both teams I have refereed multiple times this year and in previous seasons and they are two very good teams to referee,” he said.
“They are playing good football so I’m looking forward also to what should be a good match.
“The week leading up to the cup final is the stories, the managers, the captains. Ideally for me the game goes well if people are talking about a player or managers or individuals and there is no mention of me or the referee team.”