Ahead of the players’ union celebrating the 50th anniversary of the PFA Awards, our attention turns to Kim Little, the first-ever recipient of the PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year.
Born in Aberdeen, Little's love of football began at a young age when playing football with her father and brother. She quickly developed into a prodigious talent.
Kim's breakthrough came when she joined Hibernian, making an immediate impact at just 16 years old. On her Scottish Women's Premier League (SWPL) debut, Little burst onto the scene, netting a hat-trick. Her natural goal-scoring ability was evident at an early age, as she found the back of the net an astonishing 55 times in just 30 matches during the 2006/2007 season, helping Hibs achieve an undefeated campaign.
When asked about the turning point in her career, particularly her incredible 2006-2007 season with Hibs, Little humbly acknowledges that her focus at that time was simply enjoying the game: "To be honest, no. I think at that time, because of where the game sat, it was still amateur. I was arguably playing for fun, obviously scoring a lot of goals. But I think at that time, there still wasn't that kind of visible picture of women's football being a professional sport. So for me, I was just going with it," she explains.
Little's achievements did not go unnoticed south of the border, and in 2008, she moved to Arsenal, the dominant force in English women's football. Her arrival at Arsenal marked the beginning of a remarkable journey that would see her become one of the most recognisable names in women's football.
During the 2008/09 season, Little played a pivotal role in Arsenal's historic treble-winning campaign. She showcased her exceptional skills as a technician and contributed an impressive 24 goals as Arsenal secured the league title. Her influence continued to grow, with key contributions to consecutive league triumphs in 2009/10 and 2011.
It was during the inaugural season of the Women's Super League (WSL) in 2011 that Little truly stood out. Arsenal finished at the top of the table, and they also lifted the FA Women's Cup, with Little scoring the opening goal in the final.
Little was then voted PFA Players' Player of the Year for 2012–13, an honour bestowed upon her by her fellow professionals from the WSL.
Reflecting on her momentous achievement as the first-ever winner of the Women's PFA Players' Player of the Year, Little recalls the significance of the occasion: "I do remember it was the first one, which is obviously a big occasion for women's football. Having that award and naturally the award it is and being voted for by your fellow players, I think it has a nice touch to it. It was special.”
That night Little etched her name alongside other global stars of the game including Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Gareth Bale. She also became the fourth Scot to win the main award alongside two-times winner Andy Gray, John Wark and Kenny Dalgleish.
Internationally, Little again made her debut for the Scotland aged just 16 in a match against Japan. She went on to earn 140 caps, before announcing her international retirement in 2021, she scored 59 goals, including against England, Brazil, Argentina and the United States.
Growing up, Little looked up to fellow Scot Julie Fleeting (now known as Julie Stewart): "She played at Arsenal and in America in one of the professional leagues there. She was kind of the first women's Scottish player who led the way to play football as a career. She was an unbelievable goal scorer, number nine for Arsenal and Scotland. She was definitely someone I looked up to." Little reveals.
The influence of her footballing idol, clearly has an impact on her personal journey, as Little’s on-field achievements were noticed beyond the shores of England. So, she too embarked on an adventure in the United States, joining Seattle Reign (now known as OL Reign) in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). Under the guidance of renowned coach Laura Harvey, Kim continued to flourish, showcasing her technical prowess and creativity on the field. She became the first player in NWSL history to win the Player of the Month award twice, solidifying her reputation as one of the league's brightest talents.
Her passion for exploring different leagues led her to a brief loan spell with Melbourne City in the Australian W-League. Kim's impact was immediate, as she scored nine goals in just 12 appearances, contributing to Melbourne City's regular-season title and Grand Final victory.
Despite her successful ventures abroad, Kim's heart remained connected to Arsenal. In 2017, she made a triumphant return to the Gunners.
Looking back on her return to Arsenal for a second spell, Little shares her special connection with the club: "It just feels like home, and it's a special place for me, and I always feel so proud to represent the badge. It has just so happened to be a great fit, which has meant I've had a really long and great time here."
Her reunion with Arsenal saw her continue to contribute to their successes, including a victory in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup final against Manchester City.
Renowned for technical genius and unwavering passion for the game, Little's remarkable journey is an inspiration to aspiring young footballers worldwide and she is a worth winner of a place in the PFA Award’s history books.