Liverpool-born linesman Jake Collin was the assistant referee for the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final and the 2016 European Championship Final.
He talks exclusively to Merseysportlive about a linesman’s career of the highest standard.
Emerging as key component of iconic English referee Mark Clattenburg’s officiating team in 2014, Collin was also the linesman for countless other matches etched in football history, including the 2014 FA Cup Final.
Claudio Ranieri gives Jake Collin an earful in 2016
The year of 2016 will forever be the most memorable of the Liverpool linesman’s career however.
“During 2016, we were having a great season in the Premier League and Europe,” says Collin.
“We did the battle of Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Tottenham, it was an amazing match, and after the 2-2 result, Leicester were crowned champions.”
So much was riding on the game – Spurs needed a win to keep their title hopes alive, as well as the rivalry between the two clubs.
And the game turned out to be one of the most ill-tempered in Premier League history.
Clattenburg brandished 12 yellow cards, including nine Spurs bookings – the most yellow cards by one team in a match in PL history.
Collin and his officiating team had their work cut out on that iconic Monday night, and this Premier League classic was just one highlight of a remarkable year.
“The two years building up to the 2016 European Championship Finals was the most brilliant time for me and the team.
“We had some amazing matches, and then in 2016, we were selected for the Euros in France – it was a great feeling.”
Collin’s memorable 2015/16 campaign included a Champions League semi-final between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.
After Atletico’s progression to their second final in three seasons, Collin and his team thought their impressive club season was finished, but there was to be even more to come.
“After the UCL semi-final, we thought our season was over.
“That was until we got the call from Pierluigi Collini.
Jake Collin, Mark Clattenburg and the rest of his refereeing team warming up ahead of the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final
“He called Mark (Clattenburg) and told him to keep the 28th May free, and the rest was history.
“UEFA Champions League Final, Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid in the San Siro.
“The final was everything you would expect. The teams, the stadium, absolutely full of Atletico and Real fans.
“The game was good, full of top players, and the trophy was settled on penalties, with no major mistakes from the refereeing team.”
The final chapter of 2016 for Collin was the European Championships in France.
“After the UCL final we went home to prepare for the Euros. A short period of rest followed by lots of training and a good diet.
“We arrived on the outskirts of Paris on June 6th and the hotel and training facilities were of the highest standard.
“We had three matches before the final, which were Italy vs Belgium, Croatia vs Czech Republic, and Switzerland v Poland.
“Then we waited, England had gone home but Wales were still in the tournament.
“We knew we had a chance of a semi-final or final, but only if Wales were eliminated.
“When Wales beat Belgium in the quarter final, we were a bit concerned, but Portugal beat them in the semi-final.
“The next day, we again received the call from Collina.
“There were three referee teams left from the original 20, and Collina announced the English team would do the final.
“It was surreal – scary but fantastic.”
(From left to right) Andre Marriner, Jake Collin, Mark Clattenburg, Simon Beck and Anthony Taylor moments before the Euro 2016 Final
Despite the numerous unforgettable experiences, and having the responsibility in multiple historic football games, it goes without saying the pressure on Collin and his team’s shoulders is immense.
Being in charge of matches that will be watched by hundreds of millions of people and ultimately determine the history books is hardly a rarefied position.
For Collin, he compares the pressure of officiating at the highest level to playing.
“The pressure was enjoyable. When the matches are coming thick and fast, and they are going well, it’s a bit like playing.
“If you stop and think for too long, you would probably panic about the responsibility, but if you controlled all the things you could – diet, training, preparation, then you felt great.”
In the Liverpool linesman’s indelible year, both of the big final’s went to extra-time, which meant there was more time for the officiating team to be involved in a massive decision.
“The match goes through different phases. When it comes to the final minutes, a part of you hopes that the team doesn’t attack at your end.
“Of course we didn’t have VAR at the time, so the risk was always massive for us,” explains Collin.
Although the pinnacle of a tremendously fulfilling career, 2016 was just one of several seasons at the top of the game for Collin.
In 2014, he was the assistant referee in the FA Cup Final, when Arsenal beat Hull City 3-2, again in extra time.
He also recalls numerous Manchester derbies, London derbies and the match in which Wayne Rooney becoming Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer as significant in his career.
His last ever game in English football was the Championship Play-off Final between Huddersfield and Reading in 2017.
Collin was asked by Clattenburg to join his refereeing team at the end of the 2013/14 season, and credits the English referee’s professionalism.
“After the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Hull, Mark called me and asked to join his team.
“He is strict and very professional. He expected us to lose weight, train hard and be ready for the journey together.
“Mark left the Premier League in 2017 to go to Saudi Arabia, and I followed him six months later.
“We work well together, although we have also had a few arguments.”
The local linesman reflects on his three years in south west Asia, describing the hardships of living there.
“When I left England, I went to Saudi to be an assistant referee, coach the assistants and help bring VAR into their league.
“It was a tough, hard place to live. My family stayed in Liverpool, and I would see them whenever I could.
“I spent three years there, then returned home due to the pandemic.”
Collin’s officiating journey has now taken him to Greece in its latest chapter.
“I joined Mark again in Greece, here we manage, educate and are responsible for all referee matters in the country.
“It’s a big challenge, I live just outside Athens and it’s a great place.
“The main aim is to bring something for the officials that improves them and when we leave, there is a legacy that gives the Greek referees and assistants a chance to be better.”
Through so many games, competitions and different environments, there a ton of fascinating recollections.
Although achieving so much in a hugely successful career, there have also been some bad experiences.
“My first UCL match was a group stage match between AC Milan and Real Madrid – Howard Webb was the referee.
“I missed Filippo Inzaghi offside, and he scored. It was a poor call and they replayed the goal in the stadium on the screen.
“I was disappointed but I was able to recover. It was ironic that the Champions League Final six years later was in the same stadium and Madrid were playing!”
Collin also explains an iconic picture, in which Sir Alex Ferguson can be seen barking down his ear.
Sir Alex Ferguson is unhappy with Jake Collin in 2012
“I had disallowed a Newcastle goal in favour of Man United, however, the referee discussed the situation with me, and according to the offside law at the time, it was an incorrect decision, and he awarded the goal.
“When Sir Alex watched the replay at half time, he thought I was correct and came over to tell me.
“When I told him I was wrong and the referee was correct, he said something like ‘you tell him, you’re right!’
“I said to him ‘it’s a bit like your number two telling you that you’re wrong’, to which he replied, ‘aye son, that will never f*****g happen!'”
(Featured image courtesy of Jake Collin)