OUR FRENCH FULL-BACK KO'D HIS WINGER ON THE PITCH!
HE’S BEEN a menace down the right wing, terrorising full-backs for 20 years and at the age of 38, he still loves his football enough to be turning out for Grays Athletic in the Ryman Premier.
Glen Little’s sheer love and passion for the game is inspiring for many young kids looking to make a big step in football. His loyalty to the clubs he has played for has been unquestionable.
Beginning his career at Crystal Palace at the age of nine, Little excelled through the ranks only to be knocked back at the final hurdle.
But after a successful year at Irish club Glentoran, he went on to have eight years with Burnley before moving to Reading where he topped the assist charts in the 2005-06 season – the same year champions Reading broke the Championship points record with 106.
Little will be remembered for his relationship with each of his clubs’ fans, who appreciated his wholehearted approach and that he was a constant nightmare for defenders throughout the English game.
I grew up in Wimbledon, joining Crystal Palace at the age of nine. It was a shame I was not able to break through into the first team because I was a local boy and Palace were my team.
I had been there for ten years, but unfortunately I didn’t make it and had to leave. I’d been to the Republic of Ireland on loan at Derry City for a month, and when I came back and was released by Palace, Glentoran – from Northern Ireland – offered me a deal, so I swapped Irish leagues.
I had a great time there. We won the Irish cup against Glanavon and I scored the winner, which got us in to Europe.
I was always quite a loyal player but I’ve ended up having quite a few managers. The managers I played under for the most of my career were Stan Ternent and Steve Coppell, but with what happened at Reading, getting to the Premier League and having the record-breaking season in the Championship, Coppell shaves it.
He was the manager at Crystal Palace when I was nine as well. I was a Manchester United fan, so because Steve was a right winger and played for them he was my favourite player. I didn’t play under him at Palace but I did end up playing for him ten years later at Reading.
The best player I played with was at Portsmouth, Lassana Diarra. At Pompey, we had a lot of good international players, but midfielder Diarra played for clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal then moved to Real Madrid for £20m, so I would have to say he was the best.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO
Being a Manchester United fan it was great to finally play at Old Trafford. I waited a long time because I was mostly in the lower leagues.
I actually played against them in the Cup for Burnley at Turf Moor, but to finally get to the Premier League with Reading and play against them at Old Trafford was great.The dream was to play for them but the next best thing is playing against them.
There is a saying in football that I am the funniest man in football. That’s what my team-mates used to say, so I would have to say myself.
I remember Graham Stack at Reading got up to a lot of mischief but I always remember my very first game for Derry City.
We had a French full-back and I was only 19 at the time. Halfway through the game, the fella got tackled, picked himself up and punched their left winger, knocking him clean out on the pitch.
I don’t know whether it was funny, but I’ve never come across anything like that in my career.
TOUGHEST PLACE TO GO TO
In the Premier League you look at the likes of Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, and they’re tough places to go because of the quality of the teams you’re playing against.
But from early in my Burnley days, when we were in the lower leagues, the old Chesterfield ground, Saltergate, was a horrible place.
With Burnley, we had a terrible record there, we never won. The changing rooms were awful and the way Chesterfield played with the long ball made them very difficult to play against. They’ve got a much nicer stadium now.
Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy. The game I played against Gael Clichy at the Emirates, I hardly got out of my own half.
You’re supposed to be playing right wing but you spend 90 per cent of the game at right-back. At the time I was suffering with my Achilles. If you have a dodgy Achilles, you don’t want to be chasing Gael Clichy up and down the wing for 90 minutes.
The Achilles injury put me out for a year, which was hard for me to take. I always had my fair share of injuries but I had never picked up anything serious until then.
I must have had about 42 hamstring injuries throughout my career but you’re only out for two or three weeks at a time, so you only miss a few games and then you’re back so it doesn’t really affect your season.
To finally get to the Premier League and for everything to be going so well, I was in top form, absolutely flying and we were seventh in the league. To then have that taken away was harsh.
When you are younger you can miss a season and still have a chance to come back into the Prem and have another six or seven years. But to get that injury at 31, the mental side of it was horrible.
What made it worse was at the end of the season, when I came back, we got relegated. It was a tough time all round.
Winning the Championship with the record number of points at Reading.We lost the first game of the season, then went 33 games unbeaten and stormed the league. Those 106 points is still the record. It will be very tough to beat and it should stand for quite a long time.
The Championship is a tough league so to get that number of points was a great achievement for the club. I was playing well and we had such a strong team.
I scored a goal for Burnley against Bristol Rovers midway through the 1999-2000 season when we were down to ten men because Andy Payton had got sent off after halfan-hour. I picked the ball up in the centre circle, beat three or
four players and chipped the keeper to finish it off.
I remember chipping the keeper for Reading as well, in a similar way to the one for Wealdstone at Dulwich Hamlet last season that went viral – only I didn’t run 60 yards, I only ran about five!
In terms of a goal at any level, that Wealdstone goal could be the best – the Daily Mail asked if it was the greatest Non-League goal of all-time.
I had a great time at Wealdstone last year, winning the Ryman Premier and promotion into Conference South after a couple of years at Wrexham.
I’d agreed to join Heybridge Swifts for this year but the manager, Jody Brown, is a good friend of mine so when he left to take over at Grays Athletic, I thought I would move with him and try to help him.
So far so good, we have lots of new players. They finished 15th last season so we are trying to improve. I’ll play this season and see what happens.
In my mind it’s my last season, but if all goes well I might get to the end of the campaign and think ‘Let’s go again’.
I saw a quote from New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady the other day. He was asked when he was going to retire and said, “When I suck”.
I’ve always used that line but the S word is a little different. When I’m s**t, I’ll give up.
When you love playing as much as I do, you’re still concentrating on the game. If the time comes when I’m the worst player on the pitch, then it might be time to think about going into coaching or behind the scenes.
Biggest achievement: Reading promotion
Best team-mate: Lassana Diarra Toughest place to go: Saltergate, Chesterfield Toughest opponent: Gael Clichy Best manager: Steve Coppell