Kim Little will go down as one of Scotland’s best ever footballers.
The Arsenal captain’s honours list includes three FA Women’s Super League titles, BBC and FA Player of the Year Awards, NWSL MVP and Golden Boot awards, as well as many other prizes over an 11 year playing career.
She also has 137 caps for Scotland (at time of writing), making her Scotland’s fourth most capped player.
Recently, she sat down (over Skype) with James McLeay for the Beyond Canal Park podcast – available on Apple, Spotify, Google and Anchor. In these podcasts, James meets with sporting characters from the North and discusses their career, with guests such as Colin Hendry and Stewart McKimmie.
Kim was born in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, in 1990. She admitted that sport played a part in her life from an early age: “As a family - my mum dad, brother and sister - we were always so sporty and so active. Our mum and dad were always giving us opportunities to do loads of different sports. I did athletics, cross country, badminton, all those things.
“I played with Mintlaw Boys Club until I was 12 or 13, maybe even a little bit older, and with the Mintlaw Academy school team as well. I started playing for Buchan Girls when I was 10 in 2000… but I played with boys and continued to for as long as I was allowed to.
“There was lots of selfless parents and teachers who gave a lot of their free time. Obviously, my parents were a big influence, our coaches at Buchan… Euan Reid [who gave the grinning child the nickname ‘Smiler’], I played with his daughter Leanne – she was one of my best friends at school and we used to play football all the time. Her brothers were all involved.
“From our school teams as well – our PE teachers, Mr Robertson, Mr Mair at Mintlaw Academy, were always investing their time. There was so many I could name that gave up their time for us and gave us the opportunity to play football, for both the boys team and the girls team. A lot of my friends played football at school, so it was a social thing, but we did very well as a school team too.”
Kim developed her taste for silverware from an early age, as her team were the only to win the Junior and Senior Scottish Cups for their age group.
“We used to play the North East Cup and then the Scottish Cup. I don’t know how many times we won it in a row, but we had such a good team that played for Buchan and played for the school team as well, and we did well pretty consistently.”
The youngster garnered a reputation for giving referees a mouthful, as well as enjoying a singsong on the bus, but more importantly she was starting to get noticed by scouts.
“I did a few different tournaments where we went down to north of England. We played Man United Girls and Everton Girls, and went into their training grounds. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I thought I was going to have a career in football until very late on in my teenage years. It’s not something I thought I would make a living from.”
“I started to represent Scotland at under-15 level, and we used to travel down the central belt to go to trials for schoolgirls. That opened doors because different people are seeing you play and more teams are down in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Kim signed for the Hibs’ youth team in 2004 and was promoted to the senior team by 2006, aged just 16. She used to make the seven-hour round trip to Edinburgh from Aberdeen every week for training and for game days.
“I remember my mum was going to take me down for the first day to Hibs. I was like ‘I’m not sure I want to go’ – it was that [fear] of a new thing, but my teammates with the national teams played and asked if I wanted to go down.
“It’s a pretty long journey, but when you’re a kid you don’t even recognise that but now I’m not sure I’d be able to do it! We used to go down to Dalkeith, the other side of Edinburgh.
“From the age of 15 or 16 we would travel down one day a week to train, and then a Sunday to play the game. I would train and do other bits up at home. I had to miss Wednesday maths and English single periods – gutted!”
In her first season with the Hibees she scored 55 goals in 30 games followed by 33 in 18. These performances showed plenty of other teams what a talent the small Scot had, and she soon attracted even bigger attention – despite still sitting exams at Mintlaw Academy.
“I juggled both [school and football] pretty well. Whatever I put my mind to I make sure I give as much as I can to that. I wouldn’t say I was the most academic but I definitely worked hard to get my Highers. That came from my parents, emphasising the importance of that side of things.”
In 2008, Little joined Arsenal, where her form continued to show on the pitch. Kim flourished in her five years at the Gunners and, in her second season, Arsenal won the treble and she was crowned Player of the Year, finishing as the league's top scorer having scored 47 goals in the entire season.
Kim has to be classed as an idol to young girls wanting to play football at the highest level, and one of the key figures in giving the sport the representation it deserves across the country.
To find out more about the Scot’s glistening career across the UK, America and Australia be sure to check out the Beyond Canal Park podcast where she spoke about her career and names her All-Time XI of players she’s played with.
It is available at the following places: