Roy Little was born on 1 June 1931 in Manchester. He left school, at age 14 and his first professional club was Manchester City, who he joined from the amateur side Greenwood Victoria in August 1949.
He did not make his league debut until more than three years later, playing against Liverpool at Anfield in January 1953. He made five further appearances that season, but the following season he displaced Jack Hannaway to become first choice full-back. Under the Revie Plan, Roy formed a defensive partnership with Jimmy Meadows, as Manchester City reached consecutive FA Cup finals.
In the 1955 FA Cup final, against Newcastle United Roy’s despairing lunge was unable to prevent Jackie Milburn from scoring the opening goal after less than a minute. Midway through the first half Roy’s defensive partner Meadows was lost to injury, and though Manchester City equalised, the final score was a comfortable 3–1 win for Newcastle.
Though defeated in the 1955 final, Manchester City had another strong season in 1955-56. Roy was ever-present as City finished fourth in the league and again reached the FA Cup final, in which they faced Birmingham City. This time Manchester City scored an early goal, and by the middle of the second half gained a 3–1 lead. A serious injury to Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann meant City captain Roy Paul considered putting Roy in goal. However, Trautmann insisted upon carrying on, and City held out for the victory, giving Roy the first and only major honour of his career. Three days later X-rays found that Trautmann had broken his neck.
Roy remained a first team regular for two further seasons, but lost his place to Cliff Sear in 1958, and was transferred to Brighton & Hove Albion for £4,850 on 18 October, having played a total of 187 matches for City, scoring two goals. He went on to play 91 matches for the Seagulls between 1958 and 1961.
He later played for Crystal Palace, who had just gained promotion to the Third Division. He was one of four players to make their Palace debut on the opening day of the 1961–62 season. After 38 appearances for Palace, Roy ended his football career with a spell as player-manager of Dover.