This week, Arsenal announced that captain Kim Little has signed a contract extension with the club that she first joined as a teenager. Kim has won 5 league titles, 3 FA Cups and 4 League Cups across her two spells at the club, where she has also taken 3 player of the year awards and 2 golden boots. Now aged 29 and the captain of last season’s title triumph, Kim has to go down in Arsenal’s all-time top 5 players- maybe even top 3. In honour of her Arsenal career, here are five times where Kim Little went large.
1. The 2009 FA Cup Final
2008-09 was quite the season for 18-year old Kim Little, who joined the club in the spring of 2008 from Hibernian Ladies. She played in every single league game in 08-09 as the Gunners swept to the domestic treble and the teenage talent from Aberdeen helped herself to 24 goals. But her crowning moment came in the dying seconds of the 2009 FA Cup Final against Sunderland in front of 25,000 at Pride Park.
Arsenal were hot favourites against a Sunderland side containing a 17-year old Jordan Nobbs, an 18-year old Lucy Bronze, a 16-year old Lucy Staniforth and an 18-year old Demi Stokes. Katie Chapman gave Vic Akers’ side a first half lead, but it was Little who was the pick of the teenage talent on display.
She capped her performance with a smartly taken goal in the 89th minute. Sunderland bagged a stoppage time consolation, but some contemporary household names were left to marvel at Little’s impudence, not least as she pirouetted past the Mackems ‘keeper in a high-pressure situation with all the insouciance of a parent running rings around their child in the garden.
2. The 2011 FA Cup Final
By the time the 2011 FA Cup Final rolled around at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, 20-year old Little was no longer earmarked as a star of the future, she already wore stardom like a pair of comfy slippers. Kim won the FA Player of the Year for 2009-10 and took home the golden boot, scoring 17 goals. She converted a penalty in the 2010 FA Cup Final against Everton in a game the London side went onto lose.
They would not repeat the error against Bristol Academy a year later and they had their Scottish taliswoman to thank. She opened the scoring in the first half with a mazy dribble through three Bristol defenders, before steering the ball past Siobhan Chamberlain. Fellow Scot Julie Fleeting added a second to seal the result, but it was Little who took all the plaudits, including the player of the match award. Manager Laura Harvey described her midfielder as “simply world class” during her post-match press duties.
3. When Kim won the golden boot….again….
Having won the golden boot in 2010 with 17 goals from midfield, Kim repeated the trick during the second season of the now revamped Women’s Super League. Arsenal won 10 and drew four of their 14 league matches and Kim finished the league’s top scorer with 11 goals. It was the Gunners’ ninth consecutive league title.
In a midfield featuring Katie Chapman and Ciara Grant, Little was given the platform to demonstrate her talents in an advanced midfield position. By now, Kim had become a physically stronger player with a talent for wriggling past packed defences and shooting powerfully on either foot with minimum back lift.
.@hopesolo says Kim Little is going to be super important for Scotland.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 9, 2019
Her passing range began to develop too, allowing her to drop deeper into midfield and dictate play with long, sweeping diagonals. Kim also scored the winning goal in the 2012 Conti Cup Final against Birmingham at Underhill with a typical dribble and curling shot into the top corner from 20 yards on a rainy night in Hertfordshire. With Kelly Smith moving into the twilight of her career, Little had become Arsenal’s MVP.
4. When she became the first female PFA Player of the Year
Kim’s exploits in 2012 and 2013 led her to being voted the first ever Women’s PFA Player of the Year, an award she gratefully accepted from retired former captain Faye White at an awards ceremony in London, the first of its kind for the women’s game. “For years, I have watched this event on television, so to come here and win the first award is fantastic,” she beamed in her acceptance speech.
Little was one of only two non-English players to represent Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics too. The creation of a Team GB was a difficult situation for the Scottish FA and their players, but Kim was quick to insist on participating. “I don’t see why anyone would want to stop a player from playing at a massive tournament like the Olympics, it’s the biggest sporting event ever,” she said.
“If I get the opportunity I’ll grab it with both hands – I would definitely play.” And play she did. She was far too good for Team GB to turn down and the Scottish FA were hardly in a position to apprehend their finest player. She was not longed for Arsenal at this point, in November 2013, she left for a new challenge stateside, joining former Gunners boss Laura Harvey at Seattle Reign.
5. When she bossed the Conti Cup Final in 2018
Little returned to Arsenal in early 2017 after a very successful spell in Seattle, but she suffered something of a false start, rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament in training shortly after re-joining. She returned in early 2018 and played a full 90 minutes for the first time in March 2018, in a demanding Conti Cup Final against Manchester City at Adams’ Park.
Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to a Vivianne Miedema goal and Little, well, she won player of the match, as she often does on the big occasion. Playing in a slightly unfamiliar role wide from the left, City couldn’t get near the Scotland international as she drifted in-field and created havoc, dropping into space before caressing the ball all over the pitch.
I spoke to her immediately after the game and the captain already had her sights set on winning the league title, “Winning a cup is a huge bonus, but it’s very different to the league and we want to be more consistent in the league and to win it again. Primarily, it is the WSL that we want to be dominant in again.” Sure enough, just over 12 months later, Kim captained her side to the WSL title. Naturally.