Viv Anderson was the first black footballer to represent England in a full international. He played a groundbreaking role in the progress of black footballers within the game and achieved a great deal as a player in his own right.
On 27th November 1978, (after the match being postponed due to the Wembley pitch freezing solid) Viv Anderson made football history and won his first England cap against Czechoslovakia. He became a role model for generations of black footballers who have since followed in his path.
Playing full-back, right-back and central defence, he was a much admired tackler, nicknamed ‘spider’ for his lanky build and skills in handling the ball on the pitch.
He won nearly every cup going; the European Cup in 1979 and 1980, European Super Cup in 1979 and played for Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesborough, and of course England.
Anderson was born in Nottingham on the 29th November, 1956 to West Indian parents. He enjoyed school, particularly sport and played for several school and Sunday league teams throughout his school career. Growing up, Viv was a Manchester United fan, a team who he later went on to play for. Determined to make a career of his passion, he was representing the city and county by the age of 15.
At the age of 15, Manchester United identified his talent and invited him for trial but Anderson first completed his education before going back to try out for the club he then avidly supported. That time, it was a rejection. With no way of knowing he would get another chance to play at Old Trafford 13 years later, he was devastated and got a job at a local printers.
He almost gave up hope of a career in professional football until Nottingham Forest scouted him and he was given his chance to prove himself.
Anderson played 400 games for Forest in the height of their success. He helped them win many games and remains a well-loved player to this day. Anderson made a huge impact on the fans, shown by the fact he was voted Nottingham Forest’s best ever right-back by 96% majority in a 1997 poll.
Anderson’s World Cup debut was in the 1982 qualifier competition against Norway in a 4-0 win for England.
In 1984, Anderson moved to Arsenal for £222,000. During 3 years there he scored 15 goals in 150 appearances and became a mentor to the upcoming talent of Tony Adams. He helped the Gunners gain their first trophy, the 1987 League Cup, and Arsenal fans were understandably sad to see him move to Manchester United in that same year.
Alex Ferguson’s first signing; Anderson fulfilled his childhood dreams by playing for Manchester United for 4 seasons. He then went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday and helped them to be promoted to the First Division.
His final appearance for England was in 1988. In 1993, Anderson managed Barnsley and was assistant manager to Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough. His last game was in 1995 against Barnsley, a former team.
In 1999 Anderson was awarded an MBE for his services to football. He now works in sports management and television and in 2003 opened an exhibition about another groundbreaking black footballer, Arthur Wharton, at the National Football Museum.