Time was, a full-back knew his place. Pinned in his own half, keeping his opposing winger under lock and key.
Think Stuart Pearce and how the former England defender entered any contest intent on “letting his man know he was there” from the outset.
There were exceptions – Gary Stevens at Everton for one – whose defensive cunning came laced with a dollop of attacking panache.
The advent of the Premier League and ensuing influx of super coaches and players reared in an array of footballing cultures, steadily changed how we view these particular defenders.
Howard Wilkinson, the former Leeds United title-winning manager, once observed the evolving full-back role demanded its occupants “attack like Dan Petrescu and defend like Claudio Gentile”.
Italian Gentile was the sort of defender whose style demanded any mention of his name was accompanied by an adjective or two to ram home a point.
The ruthless and uncompromising Gentile would conceivably have reflected on a job well done if he’d put in seven tackles during any given 90 minutes.
Lucas Digne just happened to go in for exactly that number of challenges against West Ham United on Sunday.
Everton’s France international left-back’s tackling tally was the highest of any Premier League player across the weekend – two more than the handful who executed five tackles and were pegged behind Digne in joint-second in this category.
For Digne, his combative work was only the start of it. This is a footballer cut from the very modern full-back cloth.
He raids forward in the image of Romanian former Chelsea right-back Petrescu – and then some. Digne gallops over halfway – and deep into opposing territory – carrying the menace and poise of an archetypal winger.
“No one wants to grow up to be a Gary Neville,” Jamie Carragher once claimed, as he opined on the nuts and bolts nature of one of football’s less glamorous positions.
Watching Digne bomb forward against West Ham, firing three shots on goal and teeing up four chances for teammates, you suspect plenty of younger fans on the Gwladys Street would have been rather stirred by the idea of cultivating their own games in the image of the former Barcelona player.
Former Everton midfielder Olivier Dacourt was forthright when asked by evertonfc.com to outline Digne’s standout features.
"Technically, he has more quality than your traditional left-back,” said Dacourt. “And he goes forward a lot. He was always an attacking full-back but developed that element of his game even more at Barcelona. He is the same as [Barca’s first-choice and Spain international] Jordi Alba.
“If clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Roma and Barcelona signed him, he must have real quality, mustn’t he?
“These big clubs are not blind. They took Lucas because he has real quality. And he has the big personality you need to survive at those clubs.
“I am sure he will do well for Everton. Absolutely sure.”
Dacourt’s judgement is proving sound, his faith shrewdly placed.
The four openings Digne provided for colleagues in the meeting with West Ham was bettered among Premier League players on Saturday and Sunday by only Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and Ruben Neves of Wolves – two footballers who would consider creativity to be their stock in trade.
Everton ultimately breached West Ham only once but this was nothing to do with any absence of ambition. Marco Silva’s team struck for goal on 16 occasions, to West Ham’s nine.
Digne aimed four of those strikes, with the indefatigable Gylfi Sigurdsson the only Blues player to have more attempts – five – at defeating Lukasz Fabianski in the Hammers’ goal.
Arsene Wenger is credited with introducing a welter of pioneering ideas to English football following his arrival as Arsenal manager in 1996.
The Frenchman’s influence didn’t stop at refining training methods, overhauling diets – Swedish winger Freddie Ljungberg's Gunners career briefly hung by a thread after he ordered spaghetti bolognese on room service – and helping design the Emirates Stadium.
“Under [former boss] George Graham, I would never get criticised for not joining up with attacks enough – but that all changed," said ex-Arsenal left-back Nigel Winterburn.
"When Wenger came, we were given more license to get forward and told to quickly get high and wide.”
— Everton (@Everton) August 31, 2018
Everton have long employed two full-backs who mix defensive diligence with attacking force.
Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have made a combined 670 appearances for the Club. Between them, this inventive, quick-witted duo have directly contributed to 153 goals.
Carragher possibly had the pair in mind when he revealed his outlook on full-backs had shifted.
“They are now judged by how many crosses they provide rather than how many they stop,” he reckons.
Digne’s figures stand up on both counts.
Against West Ham the 25-year-old won a hefty 80 per cent of his duels – 12 of 15 – and completed two interceptions and one clearance.
All this requires some endurance.
“I train every day,” promised Digne on the day he signed. “I trained alone during my holidays and when I went back with the team in Barcelona I worked hard. I am fit.”
The 11.2 km [seven miles] Digne covered in Sunday’s game indicates we can add honesty to his list of attributes.
Only fellow full-back Jonjoe Kenny – another whose armoury extends far beyond a capacity to stifle his winger – and West Ham’s brisk attacker Felipe Anderson embarked on more sprints than Digne’s 14.
And Digne does sprint. At full pelt he hit 32kph [19.9mph}, making him the third fastest player on the pitch behind renowned speedsters Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Kurt Zouma.
People steeped in football will tell you, it is essential to trust your eyes, too, when assessing a player – that the numbers act to validate your initial impression.
Former England defender Matthew Upson spoke at the weekend of how his old Luton Town boss David Pleat would watch the club’s youth team in action on a Saturday morning before reporting for first-team duties, keen to form his own opinions on the talent emerging through the ranks, rather than rely on second-hand information and reams of data.
Dave Jones, the former Everton centre-back and Southampton manager, once abandoned a scouting mission during the warm-up. “I thought the player was looking for a pound coin on the floor,” said Jones.
Watching Digne tells its own story. He applies his change of pace and balance to glide past markers. Free of company, he is quick to lift his head and invariably send over a precision cross. His deliveries to set up goals for Dominic Calvert-Lewin against Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town were peaches.
Digne doesn’t admire his handiwork once he’s dispossessed an opponent, either. A bundle of energy, he is immediately on his toes, providing a passing option or surging upfield.
This is a 21-cap footballer, someone bred to win and who has amassed a stack of silverware from his time with PSG and Barca, but who retains his boyish enthusiasm for football.
Asked after the Blues had lost to West Ham whether he could glean some personal solace from his own forceful performance, Digne dismissed the notion out of hand.
“I don’t care. I prefer to win,” said Digne.
“I would swap the [man-of-the-match] trophy for three points. We need to win the next match.”
Everton go to Arsenal on Sunday.
“It is all the same,” says Digne. “Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester City, when you play in the Premier League you know it is hard every week.
“We need to work and work hard all week.”
— Football Foundation (@FootballFoundtn) September 14, 2018
Much like Shane Warne encouraged a fresh generation of leg spinners, an era of rampaging full-backs has spawned a new breed.
Digne is competing for a place in his national team squad with World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Mendy, who Pep Guardiola made the most expensive full-back on the planet when he paid £52million to take him from Monaco to Manchester City.
Indeed, Guardiola shelled out £50m for right-back Kyle Walker in the same summer.
Full-backs have stepped out of from the chorus line to inhabit centre stage. And Everton have another who belongs in the spotlight.
“Lucas can get that place back in the French squad, definitely,” says Dacourt. “Lucas Hernandez is a little bit in front because he won the World Cup and there is a special spirit in the team now.
“But if Lucas plays regularly, he will come back.
“I am very happy he signed for Everton because Everton deserve to have top players.”