THE end of August is traditionally a nervous time for football fans and a moment of mixed metaphors. The summer transfer window closes on deadline day, slamming the door on both fears and fantasies, and only rarely beckoning a new era of hope.

On the last day of August, fans sat ­anxiously on their phones, constantly ­refreshing, in the hope that a new signing might transform their club’s fortunes or more likely in Scotland, that they would not be weakened by the predatory economics of the football jungle, as bigger beasts scented blood.

Doors slamming shut, big beasts, the scent of blood, the end of the transfer ­window, vaccine passports and anti-Irish racism resounding through the streets, it can only be the overblown and melodramatic world of Scottish football.

And all of this before a ball is kicked in earnest.

This year, deadline day overlapped with the international break and a ­significantly weakened Scotland squad was sent to Denmark to salvage something from our already compromised World Cup qualification plans. It was not a pretty sight in Copenhagen, and the game was over as a contest within less than 20 minutes.

A dark gallows humour sprung ­immediately to life. This was not a ­routine cuffing, it was Scotland showing moral leadership and withdrawing from the World Cup Finals in Qatar before they get underway. It may have looked like we were playing with a porous ­defence and a blunt attack but in fact it was ­pre-planned statement against slave labour and ­corrupt regimes. Except no one had told the SFA.

Ironically, as Scotland’s men toiled in Denmark one of our most famous ­female players bowed out of ­international ­competition. Midfielder Kim ­Little has taken the decision to end her ­international career. She made her debut in 2007 against Japan aged only 16 and went on to amass 140 appearances for the national team, becoming one of the all-time greats to play for Scotland.

Little is one of the true greats of women’s football and her departure is worthy of much greater attention than it received. Superficially at least, Little had much in common with Denis Law, both came to football from the Aberdeenshire primary school system and if not quite child ­prodigies, arrived on the stage at a very young age. Law, still suffering from a squint and wearing National Health glasses made the journey to ­Huddersfield as a teenager and signed as a ­professional before Elvis Presley was a star. He ­became a fixture of one of Manchester United’s greatest sides, sharing success with George Best and Bobby Charlton ­before signing for Torino and becoming the only Scot to be decorated with the Ballon D’Or, European football’s biggest individual accolade.

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Like Law, Kim Little occupied that ­ ­mercurial wonderland where ­half-chances became shots on target and where ­midfield lit up into attack. Announcing her retirement from intranational ­football Kim said “I am proud of the 15 years I have spent representing the national team. I have developed and grown as a person through my experiences representing my country and know they will help me in countless ways in the future”.

Her career dwarfs most of our most ­famous male players she grew up ­alongside. She celebrated her 50th cap, and scored the opening goal, in a 2-0 win over England at the Cyprus Cup in March 2011 and then helped Scotland qualify for their first ever major tournament, Euro 2017, ultimately missing out due to injury.

In 2018, Kim scored against ­Switzerland in a 2-1 victory in front of a record crowd in Paisley on a night which proved ­crucial in qualification for the 2019 World Cup. This was a transformative moment. ­Suddenly the crowds for women’s ­football were growing. BBC Scotland had come to realise that they could secure television rights for women’s football having been largely priced out of the men’s game by Sky and BT.

During qualification and then at the ­finals in France, many thousands of Scots travelled to support the women’s team , Little started in all three group games, scoring the opener against Argentina in a 3-3 draw at Parc des Princes, a game that proved snatching failure from the jaws of success was not confined to men.

ARGUABLY Little’s greatest achievement was that of a witness. She saw change close up and witnessed the remarkable transformation of women’s football from a patronised also ran to centre stage. She lived through a wholesale change in attitudes and aspiration as football was forced to wake up to gender discrimination.

Most senior clubs now run women’s teams, crowds are increasing across the aboard, television has grasped the potential and commercial sponsors have seized opportunities that they might previously have blanked. Little witnessed an overhaul in the quality of match analysis too as her former Scotland team mate Leanne Crichton became a regular fixture on BBC Scotland, and her former boss Shelly Kerr took to the studios to exchange blows with seasoned male commentators.

In a much travelled career that stretched from Aberdeenshire’s ­Mintlaw Primary to Hibernian’s Ladies, then south to Arsenal and then across the ­Atlantic to Seattle in the uber-competitive US Women’s League, she came to share the pitch with global superstars like Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe. Little was never overawed and rarely if ever out of her depth.

She briefly played in Australia returning to Arsenal, the club with who she became synonymous. One of her greatest accolades came from Hope Solo (below), the US goalkeeper who is a living legend in women’s football. “Kim Little is the most talented player I have ever played with,” Solo, told the Times newspaper, “She is great at everything. Her passing and ­vision and technical skill are, I believe, the best in the world.”

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I cannot think of a male player that would come remotely close to that accolade, except Denis law in 1964, when he won the Ballon D’Or ahead of Portugal’s Eusabio, Russia’s Lev Yashin and Italy’s Gianni Rivera.

On her departure from international football, Little paid the usual courtesies wishing her teammates well but the words she chose were not the familiar clichés of football but the language of female emancipation. “Thank you to my teammates for being incredibly empowering and ­inspiring women. My most vivid and fondest memories are from being by your side on and off the pitch through good times and some challenging times, pushing for progress for the women’s game.”

I now look forward to supporting you all from afar and can’t wait to watch you perform and continue to improve the women’s game in Scotland, paving the way for more young girls to have a career as a footballer.

Little leaves a vacuum that will not be easily filled. A trail-blazer, an ­advocate and a witness to the very best of the women’s football, she helped drag a game that was easily dismissed and grotesquely underestimated into being a sport loved by young families and the occasional old cynic.

There is a strange and circuitous ­coincidence in her departure coming as it did only a few days after Denis Law had announced he was suffering from ­dementia.

When they write the definitive history of football in Aberdeen, Denis Law and Kim Little will rightly loom large.