Mike Dean has been chosen to referee the upcoming Premier League clash between Everton and Liverpool. The experienced 48-year-old official will be the man in the middle on Monday 19 December as the Merseyside rivals do battle for the 227th time at Goodison Park.
Dean's appointment by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) appears to have come as a surprise to many. A Tranmere Rovers fan from the Wirrall and a member of the Cheshire County Football Association who resides in North Wales, he has previously taken charge of only two top-flight Everton matches and just one League Cup tie involving Liverpool.
Dean has not officiated a game featuring either side for 10 years and was replaced by Alan Wiley for the memorable 2006 FA Cup final between Liverpool and West Ham United at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
"The FA has complete faith in Mike Dean's refereeing ability, integrity and impartiality," the FA said at the time.
"However, given the huge interest in all aspects of the FA Cup final, the fact that he is from the Wirral might lead to comment and debate which would place him under undue additional pressure. The decision has been taken with the best interests of Mike Dean and the competition in mind."
There is no suggestion whatsoever that Dean will be anything other than completely impartial and his selection from the Select Group does not contravene any rules given that he has never pledged an allegiance to either team.
Liverpool have already been involved in one controversial refereeing appointment so far this term, with Manchester-based Altrincham fan Anthony Taylor appointed to oversee October's goalless draw against Manchester United at Anfield despite living just six miles away from Old Trafford. Last season, Kevin Friend, who previously claimed to support both the Foxes and Bristol City, was removed from Tottenham Hotspur's trip to Stoke City due to his association with title rivals and eventual champions Leicester City.
Amid the debate regarding Taylor, the PGMOL told BBC Sport that the selection process involved avoiding "unnecessary extra external pressure and scrutiny on referees" in what is an "already a high pressure and demanding job". They further stated that an official's location is not a factor when deciding upon specific match appointments.