WILLIE COLLUM has rubbished claims that some referees are out to make deliberate decisions against certain teams.

The 41-year-old whistler says those who believe otherwise are “kidding themselves on” and he insists football fans must understand the dedication and sacrifices that go into being a top level referee.

Collum, who works as a religious education teacher when he’s not on the football pitch, is the first to admit that he’s made the odd mistake during his 16 years in the job.

But he insists it must be remembered that referees are human and their mental well-being can take a severe blow when subjected to sickening abuse from the sidelines.

He said: "We don't make mistakes deliberately. There is nothing worse for me than coming in on a Saturday night knowing I've made a mistake. 

"Anybody who thinks we are out to deceive a team are kidding themselves on. We don't work hard all week, make the sacrifices we do, to try and make a deliberate decision against someone.

"A mistake can then lead it to being blown out of proportion in the media. We are under pressure and we are trying our very best. 

"We have brought in VAR at Champions League and World Cup because there is an acceptance that mistakes will be made even at the very highest level. We know mistakes will happen and it's there to help referees get it right.

READ MORE: Referee Willie Collum admits he's contemplated quitting due to vile abuse he and his family receive

"If there is a clear error then it is rectified there and then. I can't tell you how important that is for the game. And how important that is for the referee's well-being. 

"I'd still beat myself up on a Monday morning if I made a really bad decision. I'd still be devastated if I missed a really bad, over the ball, two footed tackle. 

"But I'd leave the stadium at 5.30 knowing I've had the opportunity to fix that decision. I'm not going to be talked about in the media for a week or two because the problem is solved there and then.”

Last month Collum’s colleague John Beaton revealed how he was targeted with death threats following a Celtic vs Rangers clash in December 2018.

The 37-year-old was outed after failing to punish striker Alfredo Morelos for a stamp on defender Anthony Ralston, a clash with Ryan Christie and a kick at Celts skipper Scott Brown.

Beaton admitted the match changed his life before having a major effect on his credibility as a referee and Collum has sympathy.

He added: "Refereeing is about confidence. It's like strikers. If you are feeling good you think you are going to make the right decisions. But if you are going through a tough spell then you worry about your next game. 

"My thoughts then become just get through this 90 minutes and try to get everything right. Otherwise it's a snowball effect.

"Let me give you an example. 

"In late 2015 I was appointed to the list for Euro 2016 to represent Scotland, probably the highlight of my career.

"The following Saturday I was refereeing Falkirk v Rangers on live telly and it was not a good performance. There was a wrong penalty awarded for a handball and a penalty awarded incorrectly when the foul was outside the box.

"I knew people would slaughter me. There was a snowball effect as I went on a run of three or four games when things didn't go well. 

"It was a really difficult period and the SFA made the decision to bring me out of the spotlight for a period. There was an online petition about me and thousands of people signed it for me to never referee again.

"Every single day, every single night, that was on my mind. Nothing else. I remember thinking if I should come out and speak in the media about how it was affecting me. 

"That whole period affected my well-being and the well-being of my family. But that was a time I was very close to giving up and my wife wanted me to finish. 

"When I got on the plane to go to Euro 2016 I was really proud because I was representing Scotland.

"But my underlying thought was don't make a mess of this, don't come back and embarrass yourself.  

"I had two games and came back intact. I came back feeling more determined than ever to succeed.”

Collum was speaking on The Lockdown Podcast with former Scotland stars Kris Boyd and Robert Snodgrass, where the core focus is to discuss mental health and well-being.

He added: "In my job in education I have met people during lockdown who are in some real difficulty just now. My heart goes out because they don't know if they are going to be able to provide a meal for their kids the following day.

"It's important to speak up about your mental health. It's important to be resilient and know how to deal with it. Try to show a strength of character and that is not easy. People need to get help and support.

"But society has an important role to play in helping with the mental health agenda.

"And here is something I've picked up from my experiences with mental health that I've been speaking about in this podcast. 

"We are all really good and declaring the message and talking about support network and 'come and speak to me if you are struggling'; but we need to put our money where our mouth is. 

"We really need to mean that and the way that we treat people, what we write about people and what we say about people. 

"Do we really value people? It's all well and good saying it and talking a good game, but then three or four tweets later or three or four hours later speaking in the media, then you are already having a negative effect on a person’s mental health.

"We need to follow through, whether you are in sport or another walk of life, think about how you are acting and what you are saying about people. And ask yourself  'Am I being genuine?' 'Am I really trying to be supportive?'

"I just think that nobody has a right in society to take away someone's peace of mind and we all need to reflect on that."

The Lockdown Tactics is a brand new podcast, hosted by former Scotland stars Robert Snodgrass and Kris Boyd. Every week TLT will interview big names with the core focus being on mental health and well-being.

It's chosen charity partner is The Kris Boyd Charity.

To watch the full interview with Willie, go to YouTube and the various TLT social platforms. It will be available from 4pm today (Tuesday).