Brian Little (footballer)

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Brian Little
Little, Brian.jpg
Personal information
Date of birth (1953-11-25) 25 November 1953 (age 60)
Place of birth Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Playing position Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1970–1980 Aston Villa 247 (60)
National team
1975 England 1 (0)
Teams managed
1986 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1989–1991 Darlington
1991–1994 Leicester City
1994–1998 Aston Villa
1998–1999 Stoke City
1999–2000 West Bromwich Albion
2000–2002 Hull City
2003–2006 Tranmere Rovers
2007–2008 Wrexham
2009–2011 Gainsborough Trinity
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Brian Little (born 25 November 1953) is an English former football player and manager.

Little has previously managed Darlington, Leicester City, Aston Villa, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Hull City, Tranmere Rovers and Wrexham. As a player, he was a versatile forward who spent his entire playing career at Aston Villa. He made one appearance at International level for England as a substitute against Wales in 1975.

Playing career[edit]

On leaving school in 1970, Little signed for Aston Villa who had just been relegated to the Third Division for the first and only time in their history. He made his senior debut on 30 October 1971, in a 4–1 win over Blackburn Rovers in the Third Division at Villa Park. By 1973–74, with Villa in the Second Division, he was a regular first team player.[1] He progressed through the youth ranks, winning an FA Youth Cup winners' medal along the way. He made 247 appearances for the club and scored 60 goals, and made one full international appearance for England in 1975.

He was part of Villa's League Cup winning teams of 1975 and 1977, scoring two goals in the second replay victory over Everton in the latter final, as well as helping the club climb from the Third to First Division in the early part of the decade, scoring 20 league goals in the 1974–75 season when they clinched the Second Division title and promotion to the First Division. His playing career came to a halt in 1980 when he retired at the age of 26 due to a knee injury.

The injury was discovered when Little was undergoing a medical at Villa's local rivals Birmingham City. This meant his intended transfer there was cancelled. He was a flamboyant forward who formed a particularly prolific partnership with Andy Gray. Little is regarded as an all-time great at Villa Park, and in 2007 he was named as one of the 12 founder members of the Aston Villa Hall of Fame.[2]

Coaching and managerial career[edit]

Although his playing career was over, Little remained on the Aston Villa payroll as youth team coach. When manager Tony Barton was sacked in the summer of 1984, Little's contract was also terminated and he became first-team coach of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolverhampton Wanderers[edit]

Brian Little was appointed caretaker manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers on 31 August 1986 as successor to Sammy Chapman. His appointment came at the end of the blackest spell in the club's history, when three successive relegations had dragged them from the First Division to the Fourth. He oversaw a steady start to the 1986–87 season before Graham Turner was appointed manager 36 days later.[3]

Middlesbrough[edit]

Shortly after leaving Wolverhampton, Little was recruited as a first team coach by Middlesbrough manager Bruce Rioch. Like Wolves, Middlesbrough were a financially troubled club and had narrowly escaped bankruptcy. Little was an important part of the club's coaching staff as Middlesbrough's form improved, and with two successive promotions they were in the First Division for the 1988–89 season. The season ended in relegation for Middlesbrough but in February Little left the Ayresome Park coaching staff and became manager of Darlington.

Darlington[edit]

Darlington were bottom of the Football League in the Fourth Division. He was unable to prevent them from getting relegated to the Conference National but they were promoted back into the League at the first time of asking. 1990–91 brought more success for Little and Darlington as they won the Fourth Division championship.

Leicester City[edit]

By this time, bigger clubs were taking an interest in the 37-year-old Little and in June 1991 Leicester City appointed Little as their replacement for Gordon Lee. The Foxes had just avoided relegation to the Third Division for the first time in their history and Little was seen as the right man to turn the club's fortunes around.

At the end of 1991–92, Leicester came fourth in the Second Division and qualified for the promotion playoffs, the winners securing a place in the new Premier League. They overcame Cambridge United in the semi-finals and were drawn with Blackburn Rovers in the final. But their promotion hopes were dashed when Blackburn striker Mike Newell, a former Leicester player, scored a penalty which took the Lancashire side into the new league. At the end of the 1992–93 season, Leicester qualified for the playoffs again in the new Division One. They overcame Portsmouth in the semi-finals but in the final were 3–0 down shortly after half-time to Swindon Town. They fought back to bring the scoreline to 3–3, however Swindon scored a controversial late fourth goal from the penalty spot to progress to the Premier League.

In 1993–94, however, Leicester won their third consecutive play-offs with a 2–1 win in the final against East Midlands rivals Derby County. In November 1994 Little returned to Aston Villa to replace Ron Atkinson. Leicester's first Premier League season was a difficult one and they were relegated in second from bottom place, with just six league wins all season. Earlier in the year, former Middlesbrough youth coach Little had been linked with a return to the Teesside club as manager following the departure of Lennie Lawrence, but the job went to Bryan Robson instead.[4]

Aston Villa[edit]

Eighteen months earlier, Aston Villa had finished runners-up in the first Premier League. When Little arrived they were at the foot of the division. Significant players like Nigel Spink, Earl Barrett, Shaun Teale, Ray Houghton, Garry Parker, Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders were starting to age poorly. A 1–1 draw with relegated Norwich City on the last day of the season meant that Little was successful in his bid to keep Villa in the Premiership.

In the place of the fading stars came a whole set of new players in the Villa line-up. Young players like Mark Bosnich and Ugo Ehiogu were now getting more first team chances, but Villa also made a large number of new signings between November 1994 and August 1995, including Gary Charles, Ian Taylor, Mark Draper and Savo Milošević. The new look Villa team gelled well, and 1995–96 was the most successful season at Villa Park in years. The club finished fourth in the Premiership, reached the FA Cup semi-finals and won the Football League Cup with a 3–0 win over Leeds United at Wembley. Trinidad and Tobago striker Dwight Yorke had now firmly established himself as a world-class goalscorer.

Villa qualified for the 1996–97 UEFA Cup and although they were knocked out at the first stage by Swedish side Helsingborg, they qualified for the 1997–98 competition after finishing fifth in the Premiership. In February 1998, Little resigned after just over three years as Aston Villa manager, with the club in the bottom half of the Premiership, the club's next manager John Gregory turning results around. They finished the season high enough for a UEFA Cup place.

Stoke City[edit]

Little was appointed manager of Stoke City in May 1998 and his appointment was met with approval from the club's supporters.[5] Stoke in 1997–98 had moved from the Victoria Ground to the new all-seater Britannia Stadium but poor performances led to the side being relegated to the Second Division.[5] Little arrived with the only objective was to gain an instant return to the First Division in 1998–99. Stoke began the season in fine form winning 14 of their first 20 matches and they sat well on top of the division.[5] However their form completely fell away after Christmas and won just seven matches from the remaining 26 and ended up finishing in 8th position. One of those defeats was a 2–0 loss against nine-men Millwall, which Little described as "the worst result in my twelve years in management".[5] In July 1999 Little resigned and stated: "I have tried my best and the disappointment is very hard to take. I hope the supporters understand that it's best that I leave".[5]

West Bromwich Albion[edit]

Before the 1999–2000 season was under-way, Little was back in employment as manager of West Bromwich Albion. The club were languishing in Division One and had been outside the top division since 1986, but Little was unable to revive Albion's fortunes.

In January 2000 the promising Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca was transferred to Juventus for £4 million as Albion battled against relegation. Little was sacked in March 2000 after just eight months in charge and replaced by Gary Megson.

Hull City[edit]

In April 2000, just one month after leaving the Hawthorns, Little was appointed manager of Division Three strugglers Hull City. The Tigers were hit by huge debts and were locked out of Boothferry Park for one game by the landlord, former tennis player David Lloyd. By the end of the 2000–01 season, Hull had been saved from closure by new owner Adam Pearson, and the club's future looked brighter. They reached the Division Three playoffs, but lost to Leyton Orient in the semi-finals.

In autumn 2001, following the dismissal of manager Peter Taylor, media reports suggested that Little was going to be approached by Leicester City about a possible second spell as manager, but the job went to Dave Bassett instead.[6] By February 2002 Hull City looked well on course for automatic promotion from Division Three. But Little unexpectedly announced his resignation from the club,[7] and under his successor Jan Mølby, the club's fortunes slipped dramatically and they could not even finish high enough for a play-off place.

Tranmere Rovers[edit]

In October 2003, Little made a return to football management with Tranmere Rovers, who were in Division Two.[8]

His first season with the Merseyside club was a success. When he took over they were battling against relegation. But by the end of the season they had climbed up to eighth place and had reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup. He won the Second Division manager of the month award for April 2004.[9] In his first full season as manager, he guided Tranmere to a third-place finish in League One but they lost in the playoffs to miss out on promotion.

Tranmere began 2005–06 as League One promotion favourites, but at the turn of 2006 they were facing a relegation battle. The club only avoided relegation with one game to go and, due to the club's poor finishing position in League One, he left the club by mutual consent on 5 May 2006.[10]

Wrexham[edit]

Out-of-work Little was linked with a return to management with both Gillingham and Port Vale.[11][12] However in November 2007, Little took the reins at Wrexham, replacing Brian Carey.[13] With five games remaining in the season the club were in the relegation zone, seven points off safety. They were relegated to the Conference on 22 April 2008 after a 2–0 loss at Hereford United. However, Little signed a two-year contract, promising to revive the club's fortunes.[14]

The 2007–08 season started well, with a 5–0 home victory against Stevenage Borough, the title favourites in the eyes of the bookies. however, a run of poor results followed, with Wrexham being left in the mid-table battle, only four points above the relegation zone and only keeping two clean sheets all season. Following a 3–0 home defeat against Rushden & Diamonds, Little left Wrexham by mutual consent.[15]

Gainsborough Trinity[edit]

On 28 August 2009, Little was appointed manager of Conference North side Gainsborough Trinity. The club had moved to appoint him following the recent dismissal of manager Steve Charles and the resignation of his coaching staff which included formerly appointed caretaker managers Dave Reeves and Steve Blatherwick. However, Little would not take charge of the club's away fixture the following day against Farsley Celtic after it was announced he would not take over from player/caretaker manager Adie Moses until 7 September.[16] Little began building a squad of professionals at Trinity, picking up many players from the Football League and other ex-League players from the Conference National, but despite boasting a large squad of experienced players Trinity narrowly avoided relegation to the Northern Premier League during the 2010–11 season. On 22 August 2011 following one win and two defeats in the opening weeks of the 2011–12 season, Little was sacked as manager of Trinity with Steve Housham taking over as caretaker manager.[17]

Career statistics[edit]

As a player[edit]

Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Aston Villa 1971–72 Third Division 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1
1972–73 Second Division 19 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 20 3
1973–74 Second Division 37 8 2 0 1 0 0 0 40 8
1974–75 Second Division 34 20 2 1 8 3 0 0 44 24
1975–76 First Division 20 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 23 1
1976–77 First Division 42 14 4 2 10 10 0 0 56 26
1977–78 First Division 40 7 1 0 3 1 8 3 52 11
1978–79 First Division 24 1 0 0 4 1 0 0 28 2
1979–80 First Division 29 5 6 1 2 0 0 0 37 6
Career Total 247 60 16 4 30 15 9 3 302 82

As a manager[edit]

Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Wolverhampton Wanderers August 1986 October 1986 8 4 3 1 50.00
Darlington February 1989 May 1991 75 31 18 26 41.33
Leicester City May 1991 November 1994 178 76 58 44 42.70
Aston Villa November 1994 February 1998 164 68 51 45 41.46
Stoke City May 1998 June 1999 52 23 22 7 44.23
West Bromwich Albion August 1999 March 2000 41 8 15 18 19.51
Hull City April 2000 February 2002 97 41 28 28 42.27
Tranmere Rovers October 2003 June 2006 147 61 43 43 41.50
Wrexham November 2007 September 2008 32 7 16 9 21.88
Total 794 319 254 221 40.18

Honours[edit]

As a player[edit]

Aston Villa

As a manager[edit]

Darlington

Leicester City

Aston Villa

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brian Little". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Aston Villa – Hall of Fame". Aston Villa Official Website. 28 June 2007. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  3. ^ "Wolves Managers". The Sack Race. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Shaw, Phil (3 May 1994). "Lawrence leaves Middlesbrough". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Lowe, Simon (2000). Stoke City The Modern Era – A Complete Record. Desert Island Books. ISBN 1-874287-39-2. 
  6. ^ "Who's next for the Foxes hot-seat?". BBC Sport. 1 October 2001. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Tigers stay tight-lipped". BBC Sport. 28 February 2002. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  8. ^ "Tranmere appoint Little". BBC Sport. 12 October 2003. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  9. ^ "Little named top boss". BBC Sport. 3 May 2004. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  10. ^ "Tranmere boss Little steps down". BBC Sport. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  11. ^ "Saturday's gossip column". BBC Sport. 29 September 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Thursday's gossip column". BBC Sport. 27 September 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Little confirmed as Wrexham boss". BBC Sport. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 15 November 2007. 
  14. ^ "Little signs new Wrexham contract". BBC Sport. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  15. ^ "Little parts company with Wrexham". BBC Sport. 27 September 2008. 
  16. ^ "Brian Little named Gainsborough Trinity manager". Sports Echo. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2009. 
  17. ^ "Gainsborough Trinity sack Little". Gainsborough People. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 

External links[edit]