Football: Ex-Celts Ace Miller Reckons It's Battle of the Bottle for Players - and the Ref; THE ULTIMATE TEST OF NERVE RACE FOR THE SPL FLAG 2008

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Byline: BY COLIN DUNCAN

FORMER Celtic star Joe Miller reckons Sunday's Old Firm crunch will be the ultimate test of nerve for both the players and the referee.

Craig Thomson takes charge of a Celtic v Rangers clash for only the second time in his career and the whistler can expect to come under just as much scrutiny as the two teams.

Miller is convinced the outcome at Parkhead will come down to either which side has the most bottle or a mistake from a relatively inexperienced official.

Kenny Clark emerged with his reputation firmly intact following last week's powder-keg Old Firm tussle in the East End which saw Celtic blow the title race wide open with a last-gasp victory.

Unfortunately, whistler Iain Brines didn't fare quite as well at Parkhead on Saturday when ruling out a perfectly legitimate injury-time Zander Diamond strike to deny Aberdeen a share of the spoils.

It's a decision that could have a major bearing on the destiny of the championship although to his credit Brines yesterday held his hands up to the high-profile blunder.

Miller said: "If you get breaks like that you certainly take them. Any manager would be grateful for a break like that.

"Both teams will take luck, breaks or good form because it's a must-win game for both of them. When I was playing there were a lot of quality, experienced refs and you could have a good relationship with them. You also knew who they were.

"It's totally different now and while there's a lot of money at clubs most of the referees still have day jobs. It's something that has to be addressed.

"I like to see guys holding their hands up and admitting they made a mistake because there is nothing worse than a referee being arrogant towards his decision and sticking by it when he clearly got it wrong.

"The referee has to know what the decision is so that comes with experience.

We have a lot of young guys in there at the moment and although they don't have any experience they'll get better as they get older.

"Maybe the Hugh Dallases of this world retired too young."

Victory on Sunday would take Celtic five points clear of their bitter rivals who have three games in hand.

And while they have been the hunter for much of the campaign Miller certainly feels Celtic will feel more comfortable being the hunted. He believes the title would only be theirs to lose should they secure back-to-back victories over Walter Smith's walking wounded.

He said: "It's all down to bottle at this stage of the season and that's the terminology a manager will be using. …