Twenty years after his breakthrough in football, one-time Premier League winger Glen Little is anticipating another new season as a player, but it only seems right that he stays true to that flavour of the old school.
A man of a clutch of different clubs over the course of his career, it is his seven years at Burnley and his four at Reading that Glen is most closely associated with. The Wimbledon-born wideman played in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers (loan), Reading and Portsmouth, and also featured in the UEFA Cup with the latter.
The former Crystal Palace youth player was adored by Burnley fans and his creative supply was pivotal as Reading set a record point tally of 106 to win promotion to the top flight in 2006. The close control and dribbling ability in his armoury provided sheer vintage entertainment for spectators and his music taste also has its classic element.
“I’m a hip-hop and r&b fan. I grew up listening to N.W.A. and Public Enemy, real old school, but I also like bands like R.E.M., Green Day, the Killers, the Libertines.
“I like all sorts really, just not house or garage. The first record I bought was N.W.A. ‘Straight Outta Compton’.
“I’ve been to Reading Festival and I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m not really a fan of Ibiza.”
Initially joining Reading on loan in 2003, Glen moved to the Berkshire side permanently in the summer of 2004. It brought an end to his time with Burnley but in switching to the Royals he got to work under a manager who had been his hero as a player – former Manchester United and England winger Steve Coppell.
Coppell had also been Crystal Palace boss while Glen was a youth player at the club and their Reading chapter would certainly have its successes. In Glen’s first season at The Madejski Stadium, the team finished three points from the Championship play-offs in 7th. A striker (and past interviewee on here) who weighed in with six goals that year is the teammate Glen recalls as a standout for setting the mood before games.
“Most changing rooms I’ve been in have usually played hip-hop so I’ve been happy. Lloyd Owusu at Reading loved to DJ and pull out the dance moves.”
The 2005/06 season was magnificent for Reading as they swept all aside in the Championship to clinch promotion to the Premier League as early as March. Goals came thick and fast for the Royals, with strikers Dave Kitson (22), Kevin Doyle (19), and Leroy Lita (15) accounting for the lion’s share.
Glen scored five and came up with a league-high of 14 assists but it wasn’t just the attacking players who excelled. American keeper Marcus Hahnemann was a crucial figure both in the dressing room and between the posts, with his form earning him a place in the 2006 World Cup squad for his country.
Hahnemann, who is still playing at 42 back home with Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer, has a very distinctive taste in music and Glen is one of many teammates not to approve!
“Yes, terrible American heavy metal rock. Let’s just say his iPod never got played in the dressing room!”
A sublime moment for Glen in the promotion season came down at Plymouth Argyle in November 2005 as he dribbled towards goal and clipped a wonderful chip into the far corner in a 2-0 win. A teenage striker who played a bit part during the campaign is now an Irish international with Hull City.
The ex-West Brom man was picked out by Glen as the most memorable of vocally-talented teammates in his career.
“Shane Long plays guitar and sings well.”
In their first Premier League campaign, Reading were the surprise package, finishing 8th and just a point from a European place. Glen played 24 times in the league but as the Royals suffered relegation the season after, he was restricted to just two appearances due to injury.
Leaving Reading, he stayed in the top flight with Portsmouth, although he would be back with his former employers on loan by March 2009. As it would turn out, Reading came up against Burnley in the Championship play-off semi-final at the end of that season.
Glen featured in the second leg as Owen Coyle’s Burnley won 2-0 at The Madejski to make it to Wembley and ultimately the Premier League. The semi-final was to be his last game for Reading and he signed for Sheffield United ahead of the 2009/10 season.
The memories of the Royals are undoubtedly fond ones and he shares his thoughts on the reasons for their promotion success, also revealing which key midfielder was most often the one to suffer some training pitch torment!
“Steve Coppell was someone I knew from when I was nine and he was my favourite player growing up. We had a great team and lots of players had the best season of their careers.
“There were good combinations all over the pitch, we had a good keeper and were strong at the back. A good midfield that created lots of chances and forwards who could score goals; it all just came together.
“Like most of my clubs, it was a good dressing room, there were no cliques and everyone got on well. In training, we used to have a circle and the last man left in when the time ran out had to pull his shorts down, bend over and have a ball fired at him.
“It was mostly Steve Sidwell.”
After a season with Sheffield United in the Championship, he signed for Aldershot Town of League Two in summer 2010. During his time with the Shots, a former Sheffield Wednesday winger put in what he feels was a sub-standard r&b effort for his initiation song!
“I’ve never had to do it; I’ve always used my experience to get out of it! Wade Small at Aldershot did a poor R. Kelly.”
As a youth at Crystal Palace, Glen broke his leg twice but having represented Derry City on loan in 1994, he was back in Northern Ireland with Glentoran the following year. It was there he became a firm favourite and he has always appreciated the chance given to him at that time by manager Tommy Cassidy.
The most notable individual moment of his Glentoran spell came in the 1996 Irish Cup final win against Glenavon as he ran and hit a strike into the top corner from outside the box with his right foot. Burnley fans would see plenty of that kind of ability and he was signed for the club in 1997 by a former Everton midfielder now in charge at soon-to-be MLS club Orlando City – Adrian Heath.
Glen was not a regular choice under ex-England winger Chris Waddle but his successor, the fiery Stan Ternent, made him an important part of his side after arriving at Turf Moor in 1998. The Clarets had previously been battling relegation in the third tier but they were promoted to Division One (now the Championship) in 2000 after finishing 2nd.
One of Glen’s performances to live long in the memory came in the League Cup in November 2002. Taking on Premier League Tottenham Hotspur at home, Burnley went behind to a Gustavo Poyet goal but Glen’s introduction as a substitute for Mark McGregor was to prove a turning point.
His spark in the midfield was the difference and after setting up Robbie Blake to equalise, he then delivered the corner for Steve Davis to head home the winner. Although he didn’t get the chance to play for the club at the highest level, Glen’s flashes of mesmerising wing play, some superb goals, and his character meant he is held in the highest regard to this day.
He departed in 2004 after 282 games and 36 goals and he looks back on the players and the two managers he relished working with for the Clarets.
“Adrian Heath signed me and I also had a great time with Stan Ternent who I still keep in touch with. I enjoyed playing with people like Damian Matthew and Jamie Hoyland when I first signed for Burnley, and Steve Davis, Mitchell Thomas, Paul Cook and Kevin Ball later on.
“I liked playing with Paul Weller and Robbie Blake, and Andy Payton was a great finisher.”
Although music can be such a useful device for motivation and team unity, it did not play much of a role in Glen’s time at Burnley. However, did his old gaffer Stan Ternent ever treat the players to a song of his own?!
“We never had music in the dressing room at Burnley; there were no iPods in them days. It would have been funny to see Stan sing and dance but I don’t think anyone would have known 50s music!”
He would play there with Reading of course but Glen’s first taste of the top level came in a short loan spell with Bolton Wanderers under Sam Allardyce in 2003. Despite numerous years in the Football League he never got the opportunity to play at Wembley until his stay with Wrexham in the Conference.
Glen was in the matchday squad as Wrexham beat Grimsby on penalties to lift the 2013 FA Trophy and the Dragons were back at the stadium for the play-off final. Glen came on for the last ten minutes, replacing captain Dean Keates, but two late goals sealed promotion to the Football League for Newport County.
Last season, he helped Wealdstone win the Ryman Premier League, meaning promotion to the Conference South. He also showed that old magic is still there as he went on a mazy run from his own half and expertly chipped the keeper in a game with Dulwich Hamlet. It was a terrific solo goal and one to bring smiles from all those who have marvelled at Glen’s ability at certain points down the years.
Signing for Heybridge Swifts in May, he moved with manager Jody Brown to Grays Athletic of the Ryman Premier in July, and at 38 he is looking ahead to another season in the game. With all that he has taken on board from players, coaches and from his own experiences, what advice would Glen give to himself if he could go back to his early days in football?
“Always believe in yourself, be confident in your ability and stay away from glamour models!”
There is just one more thing for Glen to do and that is to take on the regular closing question. Envisaging himself in a 5-a-side team, he was asked to pick four of the best he has ever played alongside to join him. As he opted for five, Glen has automatically given himself a place on the bench!
While with Portsmouth, he played in a very memorable home game for the club. As FA Cup winners, Pompey, at that time managed by ex-England and Arsenal captain Tony Adams, took on AC Milan in the UEFA Cup in November 2008. Younes Kaboul and Kanu both struck in the second half for Pompey to put them 2-0 in front against the Italian side, but Carlo Ancelotti’s team were to come back.
The likes of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf were on the field at Fratton Park and Ronaldinho scored with a free-kick on 84 minutes. Pompey were unable to hang on as veteran poacher Filippo Inzaghi equalised at 2-2 on 92 minutes.
Glen was replaced by Arnold Mvuemba on 66 minutes with the score at 1-0 that night and although the win was snatched away at the death it still ranks as one of the most momentous games he has played in. He names four of his ex-Portsmouth teammates in his 5-a-side line-up, as well as an unforgettable English maestro in the middle.
“David James in goal. Jamo – a good, agile shot-stopper.
“Defender – Sylvain Distin. Quick, strong and comfortable on the ball.
“Lassana Diarra in midfield – good on the ball and could dominate the game.
“Midfield – Paul Gascoigne. Gazza was Gazza; the best English player in my lifetime.
“Up front – Jermain Defoe. Quick, sharp and electric around the box.”
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