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Viv Anderson


By TarnTalk
April 22 2008

Vivian Alexander Anderson MBE (born 29 August 1956 in Nottingham, England) is not only a former manager of Barnsley, he is a former player as well and is most notable as being the first black football player to represent England in a full international match.

The groundbreaking night for Anderson, a right full back, came on November 29, 1978 when he stepped out at Wembley to play for England against Czechoslovakia. England won 1-0 on a special and important night for the game - though Anderson's own England career would ultimately prove to be a story of being second best.

Anderson had broken into the Nottingham Forest team in 1974 and became a regular after the arrival of Brian Clough as manager two years later. He was part of the side which won promotion to the Football League First Division in 1977, winning the title, along with the League Cup, a year later.

When Anderson received the call-up for England, coach Ron Greenwood was insistent that no political issue was at stake, despite the ever rising number of young black stars in the game, born and raised in England. There was no doubt that Anderson was playing outstandingly in a form team that season and got his call-up entirely on merit. A gangly, awkward figure, he was a much-admired tackler and was also quick going forward and occasionally scored vital goals. Vindication for his selection on merit was further supplied when Anderson was part of the Forest team which retained the League Cup and then clinched the European Cup in 1979 with victory over Malmo.

All that said, Anderson found himself frequently up against equally competent right backs when it came to getting regular international recognition. Liverpool's much-decorated Phil Neal was the first choice right back as the late 1970s became the 1980s, while Leeds United captain Trevor Cherry was also regularly called up. Anderson had to be patient prior to winning his second cap in a friendly against Sweden in June 1979. His third appearance was his first competitive international as England defeated Bulgaria 2-0 at Wembley in a qualifier for the 1980 European Championships.

Anderson continued to impress for Forest during this period, and picked up his second European Cup winners' medal when they retained the trophy with victory over SV Hamburg in Madrid.

England had duly got through to the European Championship finals in Italy and Anderson was named in Greenwood's squad, playing in the final group game against Spain as a replacement for Neal. England won 2-1 but did not progress further. Anderson later made his World Cup debut in a qualifier for the 1982 competition in a 4-0 win over Norway. Essentially the battle was now between Neal and Anderson for the No.2 shirt, but after qualification for the World Cup, neither were suddenly appropriate for the role.

Injury to Kevin Keegan had meant Greenwood needed to call upon an experienced club captain to lead the team out in Spain, so Ipswich Town's skipper Mick Mills, normally a left back, was put in the right back slot (with regular incumbent Kenny Sansom remaining on the left) and both Neal and Anderson missed out. Neal played against Kuwait in the final group game to rest Mills when qualification had already been assured, but Mills returned for the second phase, from which England were eliminated. Anderson, meanwhile, never kicked a ball.

With Forest beginning to fall from grace (the ageing side was breaking up and the 1980 European Cup win was to prove to be their last trophy for nine years), Anderson's England career seemed to be stalling. After the World Cup and Greenwood's departure, he did not feature at all under new coach Bobby Robson until 1984, with Neal still mainly getting the nod. England failed to qualify for the 1984 European Championships during this period. Anderson finally won an 11th cap, in April 1984, almost two years after his tenth. In the same year, he aimed to revive his career with a move to Arsenal for £220,000.

This duly helped Anderson revitalise his international standing and he won six consecutive caps from 1984 and into 1985, including four qualifiers for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico; in the first of which he scored his first of his two international goals in an 8-0 mauling of Turkey. Then Robson gave a debut to the young Everton right back Gary Stevens who was so impressive that Anderson found himself usurped again. Robson split his selection policy, but Stevens got slightly more appearances than Anderson as England completed their qualification for Mexico and though both were in the squad for the finals, it was clear that Anderson was again going as reserve.

Stevens played every minute of England's tournament as a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina disposed of them in the quarter finals. Again, Anderson had travelled to a World Cup without kicking a ball. Anderson became the second outfield England player, after George Eastham in 1962 and 1966, to have attended two World Cup tournaments and not got on the pitch at either. Only Martin Keown (in 1998 and 2002) and three goalkeepers have since equalled this record.

Anderson won three caps at the end of 1986 as England began their quest to qualify for the 1988 European Championships in Germany. In one of the qualifiers against Yugoslavia, Anderson scored his second and final international goal.

In 1987, he enjoyed some club success for the first time in eight years when Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the League Cup final. Later the same year, in a £250,000 deal, he became the first signing of Alex Ferguson after he took over Manchester United. Arsenal fans bemoaned the deal as manager George Graham had no obvious replacement, spending most of the next season with the inexperienced (and midfield specialist) Michael Thomas in the No.2 shirt, followed by the impossibly left-footed Nigel Winterburn. Anderson was finally replaced at Highbury when Lee Dixon arrived.

Meanwhile, Stevens had forced his way back in as England qualified for the European Championships and Anderson won his 30th and (what proved to be) final cap in a Rous Cup game against Colombia though was again in reserve when the squad went to Germany for the finals. They lost all three group games and Stevens came in for criticism, but maintained his place. For the third time, Anderson had travelled to a major international competition without getting a minute on the pitch. Robson began to look to the younger end of the playing spectrum for competition for Stevens, and Anderson's important international career ended.

Anderson played for United for three years but struggled a little with injuries and was sold to Sheffield Wednesday in January 1991, helping them to promotion from the Second Division, although he missed the League Cup final triumph over Manchester United as he had played for his old club earlier in the competition. He played an active part in the Wednesday side that finished third in the 1991-92 First Division and seventh in the first season of the Premier League. He helped Wednesday reach the FA Cup and League Cup final in 1993, but they were on the losing side to Arsenal in both finals.

Anderson was appointed player-manager of Barnsley in June 1993 on the departure of Mel Machin, but his only season at Oakwell was a disappointment as Barnsley narrowly avoided relegation to Division Two. At the end of 1993-94, Anderson quit Barnsley to become assistant manager of Middlesbrough under former Old Trafford team mate Bryan Robson.

Anderson played two games for Middlesbrough in 1994-95, when they were promoted to Premier League as Division One champions. Anderson helped Robson assemble a side which reached both domestic cup finals (which they lost) in 1996-97, although they were relegated due to a 3-point deduction for postponing a December fixture at late notice as a result of so many players being unable to play due to illness or injury. However, Boro won promotion at the first attempt and were League Cup runners-up once again. Robson and Anderson finally left Middlesbrough in June 2001, having established Boro in the Premier League, despite never achieving anything higher than ninth place in the final table.

Anderson has not been employed in football since leaving the assistant manager's job at Middlesbrough.

In 1997, Anderson was given the right back slot by Forest fans who were voting for the club's all time greatest XI. The fact that 96% of the vote went to Anderson suggested that nobody else was ever in the running.

Anderson was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his impact on the English league. He remains a keen supporter of the National Football Museum and regularly attends special events at the museum.

Viv has a son, Charlie Anderson, who is currently playing for Macclesfield Town and his school, Manchester Grammar School

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