KEVIN CLANCY has told how Scottish Premiership referees are more aware than ever about what is at stake this season as Celtic aim to land 10 in a row.

Neil Lennon’s side are aiming to achieve a record breaking trophy crown, but with their arch rivals across the city going all out to stop that run, next year’s campaign is certain to be fiercely contested.

Clancy along with the rest of Scotland’s top whistlers have been put through their paces just like the players during lockdown.

And he is adamant he and his team will be on top form when the inevitable controversial decisions arise come the start of the campaign.

He said: “I can absolutely guarantee you that the referees officiating in the Scottish Premiership know exactly what is at stake this season.

“We are under no illusion that every decision probably almost in every game is going to be scrutinised to a level that even the media probably haven’t seen for a long, long period of time.

“If you want to take anything away from this, it is that the guys have been training hard, the guys are ready for the season that is about to start.

“We really do know what is at stake for the whole of the division.”

Ahead of the new season Clancy believes a strong relationship between referees and managers is brewing.

Clancy was involved in one of a few spats last term when Rangers coach Michael Beale was dismissed for disputing a late red card for Alfredo Morelos during an Old Firm encounter in December.

Despite the flash point, that Beale later admitted to accusing Clancy of cheating, the ref reckons things are moving in the right direction.

He continued: “I think you are right to say that you will always have the odd incident when things will be said in the heat of the moment.

“Perhaps on reflection people wish they hadn’t said or wouldn’t have said things if they had given themselves a second or two more to think about it.

“They tend to be the odd exception, the compliance officer probably knows better than I what sort of reports she is seeing on a week to week, month to month basis.

“But managers being sent off or those sort of things seem to me to be of a minority and the story kind of died a little bit in the week afterwards when Michael realised that he maybe shouldn’t have said what he said.

“You would have to ask the fourth official [what he said] to be honest. I feel sorry for Nick Walsh because it was my decision resulting in him having a miserable end to the match.”

Clancy kicks off his refereeing season with a Tayside derby at Tannadice Park when newly promoted Dundee United welcome St Johnstone.

The match will of course lack a degree of atmosphere, with matches taking place behind closed doors, but Clancy believes this won’t affect his job too much.

He added: “From a refereeing perspective there shouldn’t be too much difference from the sense that we will still be applying the laws of the game in exactly the same way.

“I would like to hope it won’t change the decision making. You are right though in a big game crowd noise, you know you’re under pressure, you know every decision is being carefully scrutinised.

“It certainly keeps your concentration and your focus up and I suppose maybe a challenge for referees in empty stadiums will just be making sure that because not very much seems to be happening don’t get lulled into some sort of false sense of security.

“We are all human so it would be wrong of me to say that crowd noise isn’t an important aspect of football matches.

“Not having the crowd probably should make things easier because you don’t feel as though every decision is constantly being booed or criticised.

“But I think it will just be important for myself and the rest of the guys even though there’s no crowd there that we are still bringing the same level of performance that we would whether there is a crowd there or not.”