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Viv Anderson
Gender Male
Ethnic English
Job English Footballer
Desc Anderson was an athletic full-back and England international. After joining Arsenal from Nottingham Forest he helped the Gunners to lift the 1987 League Cup. Sadly, his Arsenal journey ended there, as he became Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-ever signing at Manchester United


Org England National Team
Club as Player Manchester United
  Arsenal FC
  Nottingham Forest

2018 11 29 Retrieve

[How Viv Anderson became England’s first black player] It wouldn’t be played today because half of the pitch was hard and the other side was soft. Sso I wore rubber soles first half and studs second half!

When I first started and I watched Match of the Day the only black face I ever saw was Clyde Best, who used to play for West Ham. I made a conscious effort of saying ‘I’d like to be on Match of the Day and I want to play football’, and I was lucky to be at a club with a manager who was there at the time that helped me on that path

I remember going to Newcastle when they had the great [John] Tudor, [Malcolm] Macdonald and that sort of team, really early on in my career - maybe three games in - and I walked out to have a look at the pitch beforehand and I got dog’s abuse

I went back in the dressing room and I said ‘Mr Clough, I don’t think I’ll play tonight,’ and he just said ‘You’re playing!’ He was great in that respect. It was one of those things you had to get on with, if you didn’t, you wouldn’t further your career and that’s really fundamentally what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a footballer. I wanted to play at the top level and try to achieve something.

It stands out in my mind as if it was yesterday, 92,000 people there. I remember getting a great response because in those days you came out the back of Wembley, you didn’t come out from the side as it is now, so you heard the roar getting louder and louder and louder as you came up the pitch. I remember getting a great cheer coming out, and they say I had a hand in the goal!

I’ve got to say that Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham were trailblazers as well. Laurie was the first black Under-21 international and everyone would say ‘Was there much rivalry between you two?’ but no, not really. We shared a room with England a couple of times and we never discussed it, we talked about cars and stuff like that.

He was at Real Madrid at the time and we talked about what it was like there and everything else. Clearly, it was a big thing at the time and you don’t dismiss that fact, and there weren’t many black faces about

I went for a year, off and on, every school holidays,. I stayed with [1968 European Cup winner] Johnny Aston’s mam and dad. Then they said ‘I don’t think you’re going to make it at Manchester United’ so I went back and got a job: ‘Silk Screen Printer’, which means basically that you get the teas and get lunch!

Only alphabetically! Myself and Brian McClair came together, so I win it alphabetically if anybody asks!

It’s always a quiz question: who was the first signing? I think he signed me on the back of me playing for Arsenal against Manchester United, and me standing up to Norman Whiteside, who’d kicked us from pillar to post! I think we’d gone 18 games undefeated and came to Old Trafford, and Norman just kicked everybody that moved, and got away with it!

Obviously, Sir Alex saw something in me, and then I got a phone call from Bryan Robson saying ‘We’ve got a new manager and he wants to sign you’ and my contract was up at Arsenal.

So, we arranged to meet in this hotel in Nottingham, I go in on my own and sit down and the next thing the door opens. Sir Alex walks in and says ‘Pleased to meet you! Have you seen the chairman?’ I said ‘No, I’ve been here 10 minutes, I haven’t seen him,’ so he goes to find him.

Next thing you know, the chairman walks in and says ‘I’m the chairman, Martin Edwards, pleased to meet you, have you seen the manager?’ I told him he’s just been in two seconds ago, and it’s like a revolving door! So, my first impression was ‘What sort of club am I going to? They must have come in the same car!’

When we finished second that year we couldn’t play the Manchester United way because the pitch was so bad. What we used to do was knock it in the corners and Mark Hughes used to elbow people, boot people, and we’d get up the pitch that way and we’d end up winning games.

It wasn’t pretty at times because the pitch wasn’t the best, the drainage wasn’t good, so he got all that sorted. It was hard work that year, but we achieved what we achieved and it gave us a springboard.

We didn’t know how good they were going to be. Myself and Bryan Robson went to see the youth team play at Preston one night, and Giggsy came from school, and that night Bryan said ‘That boy’s going to be a superstar.’ You just knew it. He must have been 15, playing for the youth team in a Youth Cup game, and he was going to be a superstar.

Then, about six months later, he comes out of school and plays for the reserves in this knock-about at The Cliff and nutmegs me and I say: ‘You want to make a career? You ain’t going to be doing that again!’

Giggs always got the limelight but I remember the physio who was there at the time saying ‘The ginger lad’s going to be a player.’ That was Paul Scholes.

I was just fortunate! When you say that you go to Forest and then Brian Clough came, you go to Arsenal and then George Graham comes, then at Manchester United the new manager is Sir Alex Ferguson, Sheffield Wednesday and Ron Atkinson, yes there are some managers there

Listen, you put it down on a piece of paper and you think it’s a fantastic career, and to play nearly 600 league games, manage to win European Cups, manage to win League Cups … Are you disappointed you didn’t play in a World Cup? It’s one of those things, it is what it is.

2018 12 21 Retrieve

[Viv Anderson helps former sportspeople to tackle depression, addictions and multiple other issues with his PlayOn Pro service] When you speak to players, the biggest thing that they miss is the day-to-day, it’s the banter, it’s the mickey-taking, being around 20-odd lads that you train with, you socialise with

I had somebody in who had retired last year and I asked him how many players’ numbers he had in his phone. He had four, but had been at seven or eight clubs. Four players! They lose contact

[Whether it be down to financial issues, the law or simply excommunication, there are many ways in which former sports stars suddenly find themselves living very different lives when their relatively short time in the limelight ends] Seventy-five per cent of players who retire get divorced within the first year, and you’ve earned a lot of money but then half of it goes to the wife and the family, and you think ‘I’ve got to get a job, because I’ve done nothing else. I’ve been a footballer and had no formal education, what do I do? What am I qualified to do?’.

Remember this is not just about footballers, it’s about sportspeople at an elite level. Gail Emms had been a badminton player since she was seven, she’d got a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics, came back and everybody’s saying ‘Come on this show, do this, do that’.

Six months after the limelight’s gone, she couldn’t pay her mortgage because she had no formal education. She’d been a badminton player, she had strived to get a medal in the Olympics and she couldn’t do anything else.

People have dedicated their life to a sport and when the light goes off and the agent doesn’t want you because he’s on to the next shiny thing […] what do you do? This is a place where they can go. It turns out to be a self-help group … ‘What happened to you?’ and ‘Who did you speak to?’ and ‘Could you give me the name of this person because I might be in some sort of difficulty’. There’s all sorts of things. If we can give them work, or give them an opportunity to speak to people who they’ve not seen for 20 years, this is an avenue that’s open to them

[And the former Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday star adds that supporters often forget how short a career in sport can be] Yes, of course they do. We do! I had to go to my local shop to get bread one time and at the front of the queue there was a guy in a vest, tracksuit bottoms and flip-flops, and he looked familiar. He goes to the front of the shop and buys two litres of wine, and I realise I know him. He couldn’t pick the bottles up so the boy behind the counter had to lift them up for him, and then he hobbles out of the shop. I went out and looked, and I realise I played against him in a cup final many, many years ago. That’s the state he’s got to, and nobody’s helped him at all. Now I’m not saying I can help everybody, I’m just saying there are people out there who need help. Five per cent of ex-players are in prison because they’ve fallen on hard times. If you earn £40,000 per week today, within five years you’ll likely be bankrupt. These are proper stats. I understand the normal general public go ‘Why should I feel sorry for somebody who’s earning £150,000 a week and have got themselves into this pickle?’ I understand that, but what do we do? Just leave them? All we’re trying to do is help others not to get into that position, because we’ve got current players on here as well, it’s not just about retired players, it’s current players as well because some of the things they’ll also use. I think it should be for everybody, I think it’s something the PFA should be involved in. I’ve been to see Gordon Taylor about it and he likes the idea but he wants to see it work, and I’ve said I’d like his help now because I won’t need him when it works. At the end of the day it’s something that every time you pick up the paper you think ‘Why hasn’t somebody done something for him’, because every day there’s something about somebody in the paper. There are a lot more than I ever thought.

Of course it is, and the sacrifices you have to make with family and so on. But listen, don’t feel sorry for them, it’s just that they need somewhere to go when it all stops. When I left Middlesbrough having been to three cup finals I’m thinking ‘Surely the phone will ring’. But the phone never rings. It goes for a week … the phone never rings. Two weeks […] the phone never rang. And people go through that period thinking: ‘Surely someone that I played with at the top level wants my services’ and when the phone doesn’t ring you think: ‘What am I going to do now?’ It’s hard. It’s hard to take that on board. You take stock and think: ‘What am I qualified to do? I’ve been a footballer or a tennis player or a jockey […] What am I qualified to do?’ You’ve got to get a job. You’ve got children, a family

2019 02 26 Retrieve

[Football didn’t start in 1992 but that’s when the sport changed forever] When I went to Arsenal, George Graham worked on the offside trap quite a lot, so the back four we had then with the likes of Tony Adams, we were constantly putting our arms up and appealing to the linesmen to give us the decision. But it was one of those rules you’ve got to get used to as a player, and it was fine

[Before 1992, a goalkeeper was permitted to pick up or catch a pass played directly from a team-mate’s foot] My son’s in the Under-11s at Man City, and he’s been there since he was six or seven, he’s been brought up through it. I cringe at times because of how they play, with the goalkeeper playing it out to the defenders. Peter Shilton wouldn’t be happy playing that way because he was never the best with the ball at his feet! But now they play balls in to centre-halves and you can’t believe it, even at Under-11s!

[In 1992, the old European Cup became the Champions League. The powers that be had watched with horror in 1987 when Real Madrid eliminated Napoli in the first round of the European Cup thereby depriving Italy - one of the biggest television markets - of its only team in the competition. From then on plans were afoot for something grander and something safer. The big countries would be able to have their interests protected for longer in the new Champions League and a new era was ushered in] It was knockout and you couldn’t have a bad night. If you have a bad night, you’re out. I think it’s a lot harder to win [the old way]. It’s 19 games or something now in the Champions League to win it, we had around eight games. If you don’t perform on the night, you’re out

2020 04 24 Retrieve

[The Games That Defined Modern Football: Nottingham Forest 0-1 Man Utd (1990)] Every day in the lead up to that game we were picking up the papers and reading that the manager was facing the sack. I just remember a sense of relief afterwards and then also the feeling that it could be our year kicked in. There was a renewed sense of optimism after that win. It triggered something and we turned the corners

2020 05 09 Retrieve

[When he lined up against Czechoslovakia at Wembley, Anderson became the first black footballer to represent England in a full international, signaling the initial big step towards ending the racism that for so long had blighted the sport in Britain] It was a really big thing at the time. There were not many black lads playing at the top level, so I can see why people made a fuss about it. Bob Latchford from Everton was in the squad and he told me that I would remember the day for the rest of my life and he was right. Everybody was very positive, especially the crowd. To this day it is something I am immensely proud of.

[The Three Lions’ trip to Madrid in 2004 ended in uproar after several of the visitors - including Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Cole and Jermain Defoe - became the target of the home supporters’ discriminative slurs] Problems in places like Spain and the Balkan nations still do exist and I have to say I am surprised that we have agreed to go back to a place where some of our players suffered so badly last time.

We are such a big and respected and powerful football nation that we could choose virtually anybody to play a friendly against. I don’t know. Maybe the Spanish FA have told us that they have changed. Well, if they have, then this is their chance to show it