In our latest blog interview with the famous faces of the football world, FootieWithDad Founder, Julian Reeback, talks with former Legendary Defender Viv Anderson about childhood, his glittering career and what role he plays as not only a FootieWithDad Father for his three children today but what he does for ex-pros these days.
Anderson made 590 competitive appearances in his club career between 1974 and 1995, he turned out for the likes of Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesbrough, he even managed to chalk up 38 goals across his club career along with silverware to cap off an incredible profession.
The Nottingham born defender also went on to make history in 1978. He’ll will be fondly remembered by many supporters for becoming the first black player to represent the England national team – in total he represented The Three lions on 30 occasions, scoring two goals.
“I used to love playing football on the streets with my mates when I was a kid,” Anderson said. “My Dad was in to Cricket, so we never really went to football matches, but I now have three children of my own – one of which is in the Manchester City academy – so I spend most of my week driving him to training and games.”
During Anderson’s school days he would attend trials, hoping to impress on-watching coaches and hopefully earn himself a deal. However, it all came out of the blue to start with, as he explains:
“I was very fortunate to be scouted when playing football alone on a beach in Skegness,” he said.
“Sheffield United invited me to train with them, I then had Manchester United also inviting me to go train up there which I accepted.”
“I remember every school holiday we used to watch the likes of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton playing on the pitch next to us (at Manchester United’s training ground) – it was great to see!”
Unfortunately Anderson’s time at United was to come to premature end when he was subsequently released. He returned to Nottingham where he had to find other alternatives to seek an income. During a six week period, he secured himself a job as a silkscreen printer that he described as “a glorified tea boy.”
Anderson was then invited to play two youth games for Forest, where he did enough to win a contract at The City Ground and sign on the dotted line at the tender age of 17.
“I played the two youth games at the age of 17 and then I was signed and made my debut at 17 also,” Anderson recalls.
The arrival of legend Brian Clough to the East Midlands club worked in the favour of the young professional, where he became a regular in the side and played his part in Forest’s promotion to the First Division in 1977, winning the title, along with the League Cup, a year later.
During this time, racial abuse was rife on the terraces towards players of an an ethnic background, Anderson was often targeted for racial slur. However, this didn’t faze England manager Ron Greenwood from picking Anderson for the national squad.
This was not the Forest man’s only battle in terms of playing for his country, he was also competing against the likes of Liverpool mainstay Phil Neal and Leeds United’s Trevor Cherry for the right back slot.
Nevertheless, Anderson continued to perform to a high standard for his club in this period of time, he perceived and maintained his ability when he won his second European Cup winners’ medal. Clough’s men retained their trophy with a victory over the notorious Real Madrid in Hamburg.
Anderson’s England career wasn’t over though, as he made his World Cup debut in 1982 in a qualifier against Norway in a 4-0 triumph.
A move to Arsenal revived his England career and brought further attention from new England manager Bobby Robson. This included four qualifiers for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico; in the first of which he scored his first international goal in an 8-0 demolition of Turkey.
Anderson was also in international action in 1986, as England began their quest to qualify for the 1988 European Championships in Germany. The defender even managed to grab his second and final goal against Yugoslavia in a qualifier.
The Defender’s last national cap came during his time at Manchester United. He became Alex Ferguson’s first signing for the club and was an integral part of Fergie’s rebuilding plans at Old Trafford up until Anderson’s departure in 1991.
So, what was it like to play under two of the most influential managers the English game has seen in Clough and Fergie?
“I wish I had a pound every time someone asked me this question,” Anderson smerks.
“They want to play football in the right way, they were both very encouraging – but you wouldn’t want to cross them otherwise you would know about it – very quickly!”
“The philosophy they installed into the players was second to none, they wanted to play fast, attractive football, passing and moving all the time – it was a joy to work with both of them.”
“Just don’t ask me who would be the better out of the two – but, I would say Sir Alex has done an unbelievable job at Manchester United, the legacy he’s left will live on for years.”
“If I look back over my time at Forest in a five year window where we won two European cups and what we had to do to win the league, I think the Cloughey period would just sneak it a little bit for me,” he admits.
It’s been one of Football’s damning questions in terms of why the late Brian Clough never got the chance to be an England manager, but as Anderson explains, Clough may not have fancied the job after all:
“I think personally it would have done his head in,” he admits. “I don’t think he would have enjoyed the experience, there’s alot to undertake when becoming the England manager and thankfully he stayed at Forest.”
After leaving Old Trafford, Anderson signed for Sheffield Wednesday. During his time at Hillsborough he helped the club secure promotion from the First Division and captained The Owl’s on many occasions.
When the revamp into the new Premier League season began two years later, he helped the club to successive high place finishes. Wednesday also reached the FA Cup and League Cup final in 1993, however, they were on the losing side to Anderson’s former club Arsenal in both finals.
Later that year he began his first steps into management, when he joined Barnsley in a Player Manager capacity, a spell as an assistant manager at Middlesbrough followed a year later.
“Looking back over my career, I have been very fortunate to win silverware, as well enjoying some good battles over the years,” he said.
“Jon Barnes would probably say I was the hardest opponent and i’d say the same about him, when we played for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.”
“The likes of Willie Johnson at West Brom was another tough one, I’ve sadly been to Cyrille’s (Regis) funeral recently.”
Players face many battles during their career, but the biggest and constant battle of all can come when a player finally hangs up their boots, either through choice or forced through injury.
Since his own retirement, Anderson has set up his own venture called Playon Pro, helping retired professionals adjust to life after football and other such sports.
“We look after athletes once they have retired, helping them with the transition and guiding these individuals on to the right path for the next 20 to 30 years.”
“There’s a big gap between what they did and what they want to do next – it can be like a bereavement where they don’t have the camaraderie of teammates that they once relied on throughout the years.”
I enjoyed talking with Viv. When I look back at his career in football, I realise that like many children growing up, it’s sometimes about discipline, ability and determination to become a winner – he also has some advice for those youngsters and your son or daughter.
“Listen to your peers and listen to Mum and Dad, it’s about taking advice when it’s given – I think it’s important to have discipline from a young age for a brighter future.”
Viv Anderson’s experiences can inspire all that are connected with FootieWithDad, as we hope to raise money and focus on those that are less fortunate.
Many unprivileged children aren’t able to see their favourite team play live for whichever reason, you can donate to this worthwhile cause here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/footiewithdad
With our help, we hope to make dreams come true, where these children can be taken to a football match with a person of their choice. Let’s make it possible!