Vale: Roy Little, ‘the midfield fox terrier’ who inspired league and cup double

posted in: News, Obituary

Former Hamilton AFC captain and club life member Roy Little has died, aged 75, in Papamoa.

Little had been suffering from motor neurone disease, which had set on quite quickly.

In his playing days, Robert McGregor (Roy) Little captained the 1976 Hamilton team to the northern league and Air New Zealand Cup double, in what was arguably one of the finest teams to ever come out of the Waikato province.

Main photo: Roy Little leads the celebrations with his Hamilton team after winning the Air New Zealand Cup. 

Despite conceding a height advantage to almost every opponent he came up against, in a first-team career with Hamilton that spanned 23 years, Roy carved out a reputation bigger than most.

He was the fox terrier in the Hamilton midfield, and for a whole generation of supporters, the conventional wisdom was that Hamilton was not at full strength without him.

Little was born in Northern Ireland in 1949 and became a foundation member of Hamilton AFC as a teenager when the club was formed in 1964. Not till 1987 did he play his last game of northern, or national league, when he turned out against Papakura at the age of 38.

‘An estimated 800 first-team appearances’

Previously he had made 54 national league appearances for Hamilton between 1977 and 1982, amongst an estimated total of 800 first-team appearances.

He also recorded one appearance for New Zealand under 21’s — against the Chinese side SingTao In 1967, getting the nod ahead of New Zealand Player of the Year, Colin Latimour.

Hamilton was the only club he played for apart from a season in Christchurch, in the early seventies, where he turned out for Christchurch City, a feeder club to Christchurch United.

“I actually got the call for national league down there, but injured myself in the last game for the feeder club,” Little said when interviewed about his career by this writer back in 1990.

Little’s passing marks the end of an era. He was there at the start of Hamilton AFC – and there at the end, as a committee member when the club merged with Waikato United in mid-1992. He was one of just nine Hamilton AFC life members. Little then served as a board member with Waikato United for five years.

Little was an electrician by trade, perhaps one of the reasons Hamilton became known as as the Muir Park Dynamos in the 1970s.

‘A bubbly bloke who loved football and fishing’

Roy Little with the Air New Zealand Trophy at Newmarket Park in 1976.  In the background is former Hamilton AFC chairman Bruce Scobie who spoke at Little’s funeral.

Of many highlights over a lengthy career, top of the list for Little was attaining national league status for Hamilton, achieved by winning the northern league in 1976. That same season Hamilton cut a swathe through the cream of national league clubs as well, to win the $10,000 early-season Air NZ Cup, beating Gisborne City 3-1 in the final at Newmarket Park.

‘We had tried for many years to break into the national league, and finally succeeded in making it for the 1977 season,” Little said in 1990.

“This was such an important period for the Hamilton club … football was really buzzing for a couple of years then.”

In retirement, Little set out his Papamoa basement as a shrine to Muir Park and the Hamilton AfC days.

Graham Jones, a veteran of more than 100 appearances for Waikato United (and many more for Melville United), worked for Little as an electrician for 10 years, and described him as a bubbly bloke who absolutely loved football and fishing.

“His only downside was he was such a keen Manchester United supporter,” Jones mused.

A service was held for Little at his home on March 20, attended by many former Hamilton team mates.

Little’s favourite players

From the 1990 interview, Little rated former Hamilton (and later, New Zealand) striker Keith Nelson as the best player he ever played alongside.

“Everyone asked that question would pick Keith — he just has to be picked. As a man up front, there’s just nothing that touches him.

“For (Hamilton) defensive combinations, you can’t go past Ian Dolman and Alex Young. From that central pairing, Alec got to play for New Zealand, but Ian put him there. The combination of the two was magic.

“There were too many good players from that era to go into. For example, hardly anyone remembers anything about Ray Veall, but the knowledge of the man was outrageous.

“He was just football in general – a marvellous chap to sit and talk to, not just to watch play.”

Little’s favourite coaches

Little played under many coaches, but nominated Roger Wilkinson as one of the best he’d come across.

“I’ll tell you now, he’s as good as any of them — he matches the best. Kevin Fallon (sacked by Hamilton in 1978) was also a great coach. We weren’t ready for him at the time, and he wasn’t ready for us. But I still rate him. His coaching sessions were marvellous, absolutely marvellous.

“People will probably laugh at that — I was under him for nine months, and helped to get rid of him, but his sessions really were good, even though It didn’t work out In the end.”

Robert McGregor (Roy) Little

The following notice appeared in SunLive:

LITTLE, Robert McGregor “Roy”: Aged 75 years. Much loved husband, father and grandfather. A service to celebrate Roy will be held on Monday 20th March at 2pm at the family home.


Through the publication of obituaries, Friends of Football tries to recognise the loss of those who have significantly contributed to our game.

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