Chris Wade – @TufcChris
Chris discusses the departing midfielder
When you support a club like Torquay, there are certain things that you sign up too. The sense of community, being so close to the players on matchday that they can hear your (loud in my case) voice, the feel of togetherness and that we win and lose together. Perhaps the worst side of the deal is that players will always move on, always have an option to better themselves. But you have to be fine with that and feel no resentment (ok, apart from him…), as players will move on. And this is the case with Armani Little.
I will always remember where I was when we signed Armani from Woking, walking along the beach in Swanage on a family holiday. The name immediately rang a bell and I knew I had seen him play the previous season for Woking. On Ben Wynter day, he dominated the midfield and lead us a merry dance in between the lines as we went 3-1 behind, constantly creating chances and causing problems. Oh wow. Him I thought. Story has it that Gary and his players were so impressed that day that the Gaffer only had one solution to that not happening again. Sign him.
Armani started his career in the Southampton academy, before a move to Oxford in 2018. It was from there that he made the move to Woking on loan, where he was instrumental in them joining the Yellows in the National League. After being pipped for the title, he was the one that drove them through the play-offs, scoring a scorching free kick in the final and securing their place in the fifth tier.
Following that famous day in April, Gary made his mind up and made his move when Armani was released by Oxford at the end of that season. He was clearly delighted to have landed one of his major targets, and we all saw what we had on our hands in an early pre-season game at Plainmoor, when he scored an outrageous free kick against Plymouth. It was clear that we had a talented player on our hands.
Little’s time at the club could be described as strange. Joining at the start of a curtailed season due to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it really took some time for him to find his feet. His time at the club took a while to get started on the pitch too. A series of niggling injuries disrupted the start of his time at the club and there was always a feel that Gary didn’t always know where to play him. As we headed into the 2020/2021 season, hopes were high that he could start to really show what we thought we would see.
Injuries are part of being a footballer, and that season really summed it up. A serious hamstring injury left all of the Yellow Army wanting more. It was serious enough to require surgery and specialist treatment, and GJ was understandably cautious with his return. Every time it looked like he was getting close to a return, he would have another setback and be absent for a few more weeks. Nothing epitomises this more than Boxing Day 2020. A saucy first half saw Armani score his first goal of the season (now with long post lockdown locks) with an excellent free kick from outside of the D, before limping off later in that half. That day would prove pivotal with Danny Wright also suffering a serious hamstring. But the goal showed a glimpse of what he could do.
Returning later in the season and with some fitness, he played an important role in the end of season events that we don’t need to talk about. But he chipped the ball in for the equaliser and slammed his penalty top bins in the shootout.
But it was this season where he really showed what he can do. Given additional responsibility as vice-captain, he shone throughout. 15 goals from central midfield and double figures in assists finally showed the player that we all knew that he could be. He scored some stunning goals, including the top corner banger against Notts County along with the sublime fifth, the arrow at Woking and the last-minute finish against Dover, where some fools thought it right to boo the announcement of his man of the match award. But it’s the sumptuous team goal at Eastleigh that will stick long in my memory when I think of him. It was exactly the sort of goal that Gary wants us to score. Pass and move, slick interplay and a firm finish. Just what you pay your money to see.
Armani Little was exactly the sort of player that I signed up for when I signed up to support Torquay United. Good feet, quality on the ball and will run all day for the yellow shirt. He had everything that I like to watch when I pay my money. But I can’t help feeling that there will be a tainted part to his legacy. The booing at Plainmoor against Dover when he was (rightfully) given the Man of The Match award seemed to affect his relationship with Torquay fans. He appeared moody and distracted at times after that, and I can’t say that I was surprised when he chose to move on. Where to remains to be seen, but he sure as hell is good enough to play in the EFL.