THEY were a duo of many nicknames – the gruesome twosome, and two baldies, to name a few – but David Moyes just called them irreplaceable.
Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen were the fulcrum of the Scot’s early Everton sides, with the Irishman’s tough tackling, and economical passing complementing the Dane’s creative powers.
They were a formidable double-act, which Moyes rates to this day as one of the most influential pairings he has overseen during his managerial career.
Like with any classic central midfield, the pairs contrasting qualities combined to create a cohesive unit which eventually guided the Blues to the brink of the Champions League group stages – even though Gravesen only played for half of the season.
When Real Madrid signed the Mad Dane in January 2005, many joked they had bought the wrong player - although to his credit, Gravesen shone until falling victim of the Bernabeu circus.
Tim Howard may not have been around Goodison at that time, but knows a thing or two about influential midfielders after operating behind Paul Scholes and Roy Keane at Old Trafford.
And the deep-thinking American, another among the Toffee ranks who could one day make a shrewd manager, believes Everton have a new midfield partnership to rival the famous Gravesen/Carsley combination.
Seven years on, the man charged with providing the Blues’ last line of defence has seen signs of a new dynamic duo. It is always worth listening when Howard talks tactics, and the 33-year-old believes Moyes is onto something.
“I think Darron and Felli have (replicated the Carsley/Gravesen partnership) in that they are both good passers of the ball, they are really tough and as soon as Darron got here you could see there was something there,” he said.
“It takes 25 to 50 games together to really cultivate that, it doesn’t happen overnight.
“But even then (in that first game) you could really see the early stages of a good partnership.
“They are both young with a lot of experience and if we can keep those guys healthy, it will be really good for us because you like to have a solid spine to the team.”
Gibson has not been on the losing side in a Premier League game in two years – counting 23 games – and has yet to taste defeat as a blue.
His arrival has also coincided with a notable increase in clean-sheets recorded by Moyes’ men.
Howard insists it is no coincidence, with the 24-year-old shielding his defence with intelligence, just as Carsley once did. “I’m a firm believer that if you limit other team’s chances, you limit goals,” he said.
“We’ve done a great job of that since the Christmas period in terms of getting teams on our terms by putting them in positions in the final third where we want them and where they don’t want to be.
“We’ve been closing down shots, taking away angles and bringing in support from elsewhere to double up.
“We’ve not given away many fouls and we’ve cut out a lot of corner-kicks. When you do those things really well and consistently you are not going to give up as many goals. I really feel like my communication with whoever has been at the back has been strong. Everybody is very demanding but also encouraging and that all leads to clean sheets and points.
“And you need your holding midfielder to protect the back four. Darron has done great for us in a number of aspects – but particularly in anchoring the midfield.
“Frankly, since Lee Carsley left we haven’t had somebody in that mould. We’ve had some really good central midfielders, but what Darron does is sit, protects the back four, links play, gets stuck in and is a good passer of the ball.
“He allows Felli and Tim Cahill to get forward and he can release them with passes.
“To have a guy in there who likes to roll his sleeves up and who wants to be known as part of that unit really helps us because it gives us that extra support that we need.”