Little-and-large strike partnerships were all the rage in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, but the combination of a small, nimble poacher playing off a tall targetman fell out of favour in the Nineties only to make a resounding return in the North-East when Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips plundered 34 goals in a single Premier League season for Sunderland. 

For a brief spell it looked like the classic pairing may flourish once again, especially as around this period Tore Andre Flo and Gianfranco Zola were terrorizing defences to good effect at Stamford Bridge.

Sadly though, the turn of the century proved to be a death knell for this beloved merging up front, with only a couple of pertinent examples thereafter, most notably that of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch sharing out the goals for Portsmouth and Spurs.

It is perhaps apt that it was this pair who gave the little-and-large partnership its final send-off, epitomising as they did the masterplan’s benefits in its purest of forms.

Time after time long diagonal balls would be pumped into the box at Fratton Park and White Hart Lane, for Crouch to get on the end of using his 6ft 7 frame. A straightforward nod down and in a flash, Defoe would spin and ruthlessly convert from close range. 

It was simple but devastating. Football stripped to its barest elements and that’s not always a bad thing.

It was perhaps apt too that the manager who orchestrated this temporary renaissance was on both occasions Harry Redknapp, a gaffer who famously held little truck with tactics.

“You can argue about formations, tactics and systems forever, but to me football is fundamentally about the players,” he once said, and in an era when all three were being deliberated over a great deal it took a brave and stubborn man to offer up a throwback solution instead.

Redknapp was that man. 

And of course it was tactics that ultimately did for the little-and-large partnership, first coming for the combination with 4-4-2 rendered obsolete, then archiving each player individually.

In the 21st century there was no great need for a burly - quite often immobile - targetman, with possession-based football coming to the fore.

As for the proverbial foxes in the box, they were replaced by second strikers, who covered more ground and were involved for longer periods, not just altering the live betting odds with a single second of accuracy. 

All of which is a shame really, even if the game evolves and wishing that it didn’t amounts to shouting at clouds.

Because in their heyday the big-man-small-man combo was a glorious sight, from Kevin Keegan and John Toshack linking up telepathically on the muddy fields of a bygone era, to Phillips spinning off his marker and darting into space for the Black Cats, just knowing his gangly compadre was going to get a flick-on. 

It would be a foolish punt in the sports betting to back it ever coming back into fashion. But for a good third of football’s existence these oddly-matched duos struck fear into the best back-lines around.

We miss them dearly.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.