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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Little realises big dreams
By Pete Oliver

Glen Little
Little has had to bide his time
After a career spent battling to reach the top, Reading winger Glen Little is finally ready to embrace life as a Premiership player.

Following a number of near misses, Little earned his place on the big stage by helping the Royals romp to last season's Championship title.

Even then, his ambitions were put on hold by a pre-season hamstring injury that has delayed his Premiership bow.

But now restored to fitness and with a reserve-team game under his belt, Little is ready to complete a journey that started more than a decade ago at Crystal Palace.

At the time Palace flitted between the top two divisions but Little could not win a first-team place and had to move to Glentoran to launch his career.

A massive hit in Northern Ireland, Little attracted the attention of Burnley and, in November 1996, moved to Turf Moor to start the long climb up the English league ladder.

"Tommy Cassidy (Glentoran manager) said that if things went well he would let me come back and he was true to his word," Little told BBC Sport.

"Burnley was a great club to play for at that stage but I wasn't thinking about ever playing in the Premiership. I just wanted to play regularly for Burnley.

Under Adrian Heath that happened. But when Heath went to Everton, Little found himself out in the cold under new boss Chris Waddle.

That changed when Waddle's Burnley were faced with relegation to the bottom division and following his return to the side Little played some of the best football of his career to help the Clarets stay up.

Waddle left but Little remained a key player under the Stan Ternent revival which gathered real pace when the winger scored a promotion-clinching goal on the final day of the 1999/2000 season.

There were four or five clubs interested when I left Burnley

Glen Little

"Once we went up to the First Division (now the Championship) with Burnley it went very well for us," Little said.

"In the first year we had a great end to the season and we just missed out by a couple of points.

"The next season we were top of the table at Christmas and flying. But then came the collapse of ITV Digital and instead of adding three or four players we started to lose them.

"When players reached the end of their contracts that summer they left and the last couple of years were a bit of a struggle."

Burnley missed out on the 2002 play-offs by a solitary goal, but the following season Little was there. A loan move to Reading revived promotion aspirations, but a semi-final defeat to Wolves saw another route to the Premiership blocked.

Undeterred, Little was loaned out again early the following season. This time he was fast-tracked straight into the top division, only for his hopes of a permanent stay with Bolton to be scuppered by injury.

"When I got fit I came back onto the bench and it was hard to get in past players like Kevin Nolan, Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo," said the winger, who was restricted to just four outings from the bench.

Reading, though, were to offer another opportunity after Little opted to return to the Madejski Stadium for good in June 2004.

"There were four or five clubs interested when I left Burnley but I felt Reading was a good, ambitious, up-and-coming club and I felt they had a good chance if everything fell into place," he said.

That did not quite happen in his first season as Reading dropped out of the play-off places right at the death.

But last season, with Little playing an integral part in providing the ammunition for Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita, there was no stopping Steve Coppell's side.

We don't want to do a Sunderland

Glen Little

Little is now ready to test the cream of the country's left-backs with his languid style and sleight of foot.

"It would have been disappointing not to have got there. Now I've finally got there I'm looking forward to it."

For Little and Reading, who will resume after the international break with a record of one win and two defeats, it is uncharted territory.

But having waited so long to make it to the Premiership, both parties are keen to hang around.

"We don't want to do a Sunderland, have a great year and then all that be forgotten by losing every week," he added.

"We are hoping to do well and be a team that stays in the Premiership for a long time to come."

SEE ALSO
Royals' Little gets injury boost
28 Dec 05 |  Reading
Little sidelined by injury
12 Aug 04 |  Reading
Reading close in on Little
13 May 04 |  Reading
Little faces lay-off
30 Dec 03 |  Burnley


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