Announced as Jersey’s men’s team boss last week, the Aston Villa legend has been handed the task of retaining inter-island bragging rights on 14 May when Springfield hosts the 100th Muratti final. And, as he prepares to fly in from the UK for weekly training sessions, the 62-year-old hopes his ‘tried and tested’ methods will prove the difference.
‘I saw the Island Games so I know how Jersey play, but I need to look at things again and cement a few of my ideas across,’ Little said.
‘I want to use my experience to create a team that has a strong framework and is resilient, but doesn’t lack flair. I’ve always had well organised, disciplined teams with people in that team who are given the licence to let themselves go and win you games, and the rest of the team, who also have jobs to do, need to appreciate who those players are.
‘There are parts of sessions that players will be able to do with their eyes shut, but when it comes to team patterns, with the head coach putting something on to show you how he wants to play, you have to look, listen and learn.’
Little – unbeaten in over 70 per cent of his 860 games as a professional manager – also explained that he wouldn’t be afraid to shuffle the pack as he seeks to get the best out of the players available to him.
‘I will be looking at different systems in two or three short games and seeing how players react to different situations,’ he said. ‘I famously change people’s positions in teams if I think they can do a great job for me … if you look at Aston Villa everyone was talking about Dwight Yorke as being a midfielder or a right-winger, but he became one of the best strikers in the league for me, and Gareth Southgate came as a holding midfield player, but was an England international three months later playing in the middle of three centre-backs.
‘The sad thing is it’ll take me two or three months to do what I would normally do in a week at a professional football club, but the most important thing for me is for players to see that somebody is trying to help – hopefully I can show them things that perhaps they already know, but haven’t been flat out with.’
With the form-guide pointing towards another Jersey-Guernsey showdown for the Muratti final – the Sarnians meet Alderney in the semi-final on 2 April – Little, who didn’t rule out an extension to his current managerial deal (which runs until the end of the season), also plans to watch some of Guernsey FC’s Ryman South fixtures.
‘I thought in the Island Games they were very strong … I was quite impressed with them,’ he said. ‘They’ve had to adapt to a more rigorous approach to football while playing in the UK and it has certainly helped them. Right now we’re not doing that, so we have to look at what they’ve got, and look at other ways of getting our team aware of what’s needed.
‘I have to win a football match in May, and I’ll be trying my best to do that. Once we get through that game we will then highlight what’s right for the next stage.’
Little is sponsored by Smith & Williamson.