Exclusive: Interview with Arsenal Ladies star Kim Little
Arsenal’s Kim Little discusses her PFA Women’s Player of the Year award and the Gunners’ campaign as they prepare to face Chelsea tonight.
Kim Little’s triumph as the first PFA Women’s Player of the Year in April was a great individual honour for the 22-year-old – but beyond an accolade recognising her rapidly improving ability, the award had greater significance to women’s football.
The award was the first time women’s football has been recognised alongside its more illustrious counterpart in that respect, and from next season women will also be able to become members of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
It represents another step in the process of narrowing the gap between women’s football and the men’s game.
There is a long way to go before the Women’s Super League matches the social and financial impact of the Premier League, but Little is excited by the progress that has been made this year following her award.
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“It was really nice to be involved in that whole evening, and for women now to be able to be members of the PFA is great,” she said.
“For it to be the first women’s award, in line with the men’s as well, it was great to be there – and to be nominated and then win it was even better, so it was a great night for me and a great night for women’s football too.”
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While equality within the sport is of ongoing interest for fans and players alike, Little – who joined Arsenal from Scottish side Hibernian six years ago – remains focused on the Gunners’ league campaign.
Having suffered the unaccustomed feeling of defeat – which Arsenal are more used to inflicting – following their opening-day 4-0 home defeat against Liverpool in the Women’s Super League last month, the Gunners’ girls find themselves unusually placed in mid-table.
This followed the club’s exit from the Champions League at the semi-final stage, against the eventual winners Wolfsburg – and all of a sudden the misfortune of the men’s side appeared to be spreading.
But an eight-year wait for a trophy was never going to be something the Ladies would allow, and they went on to record a hat-trick of victories over Bristol Academy – including an emphatic 3-0 win in the FA Cup Final and a 4-2 triumph in the quarter-final of the Continental Cup.
“After the good result in the cup and then good results against Bristol, we’re definitely more confident,” said Little.
“It was obviously disappointing to get defeated in the opening game [against Liverpool], but we know we can get better and play better and take points off teams . We want to get the most points we can off teams [in the upcoming matches].
“We always want to win everything we go into and hopefully we can kick on in the league and get better results than we had at the start of the season. After the wins over Bristol, hopefully we’ll be able to kick on from there.
“Obviously we’re through to the semi-final of the Continental Cup as well, so it’s looking much better.”
Little missed Scotland’s recent international with Iceland, having played three games in 11 days during the Gunners’ run against Bristol – and she feels all the better for the break.
“I was playing every week, on and off, with so many domestic games, so hopefully I’ll feel refreshed and ready for a big game on Thursday [against Chelsea], which is really important for us,” she said.
With tonight’s Super League clash against the Blues being screened live on ESPN, increasing media attention will fall on the PFA winner, but the shy and unassuming Scot has only one thing on her mind.
“It’s an extra pressure to have, definitely,” said Little. “I think I just need to keep playing well and do well for the team.”
Manager Shelley Kerr is certainly hoping to put on a show for those watching at home.
“It’s important that you provide entertainment when you get media attention and are in the spotlight,” said the former Scotland international.
“We try to do that with or without the TV cameras at our games, but it’s an added bonus if we can go and put on a performance for the team and for the supporters, as well as for the viewers at home.
“It’s very important that you provide an attractive and entertaining game. Hopefully everyone tuning in will see a really entertaining game.”
Arsenal Ladies will host a free interactive fanzone prior to their game against Chelsea at Meadow Park tonight for youngsters aged between five and 16 from 5.45pm.
Members of Arsenal Ladies’ Under-17 National Cup-winning team will greet all arrivals, who will be able to take part in activities including a speed cage and a target shoot inflatable ahead of the 7.45pm kick-off.
And as an added incentive, those who register for the fanzone will get the chance to watch the match for free.