HERO LITTLE EYES THE BIG TIME...
MARK Little made it successive winners’ medals in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a virtuoso show in the final – but he has no desire to make it a hat-trick.
The marauding rightwing back won the competition for the Football League’s bottom two divisions with former club Peterborough United a year ago.
And when he netted Bristol City’s second in their impressive victory against Wembley debutants Walsall last Sunday, it put the seal on another glory day.
But the fact he’s not got his eyes on a treble next term is not because he’s got bored of Wembley or blasé about success, it’s because he doesn’t want to be eligible for the competition.
And with Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City miles clear at the top of the League One table, it’s a good bet that Little and co won’t get the chance to defend their crown.
The 26-year-old, man-of-thematch at Wembley, told The FLP: “I’m not saying I’ll never be back in the competition, but I’m hoping not be in it next season – and I don’t expect to.”
With the JPT safely tucked away, the Robins can now focus all their attentions on securing promotion to the Championship in the remaining weeks of the season.
Little said: “Everyone is excited and eager to get back to the
league All the lads are buzzing this week.Winning the league is the most important thing and the promotion that comes with that. "We need to approach the games properly and not take anything for granted.”
Whatever does happen from here on in, Little is delighted he made the move to Ashton Gate last summer.
"It's been unbelievable,” he said. "I couldn’t have asked for a better place to come. I’m loving every minute of it – the club, the place, the people. I couldn’t have ask for more.”
With a crowd of 72,315 packing into Wembley, Cotterill’s troops proved they are the real deal by easing to a 2-0 victory.
It was the Saddlers’ first-ever appearance at the home of foot-ball but the ruthless Robins showed them no mercy. Let’s hope it’s not another 127 years before they return. They would have hoped to have given City more of a run for their money, but bigger and better teams have come unstuck against them.
The scene was set when towering defender Aden Flint leapt high to power in a backpost header from Marlon Pack’s 15thminute corner. It made it ten goals this season for the imposing centre-back – plenty of strikers would be pleased with that tally.
With midfielder Luke Freeman showing exactly why he’s rated so highly, the west country outfit continued to pull the strings.
And the ex-Arsenal man was given too much time and space to send in a superb cross with his weaker right foot to set up the second in the 51st minute.
Little showed real desire to get there first and head goalwards. Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell made a great reaction save, but the ball ricocheted into the net off Little’s knee to double the advantage and seal victory.
When the closing stages came around, it was clear that the League One pacesetters weren’t going to be thwarted.
As the celebrations started, a jubilant Little donned a red wig and milked the occasion.
Fellow goalscorer Flint was just delighted the club’s supporters had a success to savour.
“The fans all came out to see us win a trophy and it’s great that we’ve been able to do that,” he said. “To see 40,000 supporters turning up at Wembley just shows how big the club is.”
Boss Cotterill has masterminded a magical season at Ashton Gate and believes his young side will be all the better for their Wembley experience.
“To play in front of 72,000 people was something they wouldn’t have done before and I was pleased with the way in which they handled it,” he beamed.
“The experience they gained will be so important to them going forward. It is something every young manager and player needs to experience early in their career.”
While City celebrated, there was disappointment in the losing camp that they hadn’t shown their best face on the big stage.
Boss Dean Smith admitted: “The build-up is superb, but Wembley is no place to be on the losing team. We just wanted to give our fans more to shout about.”
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY: Mark Little bundles home the second Right: Aden Flint nets the opener, top, and ex-loanee Matt Smith lifts the trophy, bottom
ALL-SMILES: City’s Mark Little celebrates scoring the clincher and, below, boss Steve Cotterill gets a soaking