The derby has to take place at Goodison.
For it to be moved to a neutral venue (some have suggested Wembley for crying out loud) would be an insult too far.
Fans have already had to accept that the season would resume without them, as games are played behind-closed-doors, but for the second of the two most important matches in the campaign to not even take place where it should, would be appalling.
We’ve heard so much about the ‘integrity’ of the competition throughout talks over Project Restart. To not allow this game to take place where it’s meant to, would make a mockery of any such talk.
Especially as most (if not all, but let’s see) of the other remaining 92 games of this delayed season will be played at home and away as normal.
Well, not normal but as close as normal can be.
Everton will do everything in their power to make sure, first of all, Goodison is able to accommodate a Premier League game under strict new bio-secure regulations.
Does the Old Lady need to work harder for that to happen than many modern stadia? Yes, but if Goodison has issues that the authorities deem insurmountable then so too will a clutch of others in the Premier League and that opens a can of worms they don’t need.
Everton are sure to find a way.
They will also do whatever is in their power to secure the immediate perimeter of Goodison. It’s unclear if Merseyside Police will ask for financial support to help policing the fixture as they look to guard against the prospect of crowds gathering but in their statement, issued two weeks ago, the force said: “In relation to crime and disorder we have no objections to any of the Everton or Liverpool home fixtures being played at their respective grounds.
“We have a good working relationship with both clubs, and their fan groups, and are content that we can work together in advance of the restart of the season.”
So as long as Everton can meet the protocols to ensure Goodison, and the immediate vicinity, is bio-secure then the local force say they are able to handle the rest.
And by working with fan groups – the Everton Fans’ Forum, the Blue Union and Spirit of Shankly are due in this coming week’s SAG meeting – then the right messages can be filtered through to supporters.
But nobody needs reminding of the seriousness of the situation we all find ourselves in or that the North West has an ‘R’ rate higher than most parts of the country.
Fans will be asked not to congregate around Goodison on the day of the game so trust them to follow the advice and with Merseyside Police also saying they are “ready to provide whatever policing is required of us” then surely talk of moving this game to a neutral venue is redundant?
The kick-off time of 7pm is also hoped to have eased any concerns about large gatherings.
If Everton do everything in their power to meet regulations for inside and outside of the ground, no doubt including offering the use of club stewards to aid the work of the police in controlling the wider Goodison Park area, then this game has to go ahead where it’s meant to and not hundreds of miles away, right?
Does the ‘threat’ of crowds gathering disappear because the game is shifted to London? Of course not.
So why should the Blues be punished, by losing home advantage? They shouldn’t.
Playing the 236th Merseyside derby at a neutral venue would be an insult to Everton and football fans in the city.
If integrity is to be upheld, then Goodison will host the game, just as it should.