Viv Anderson’s football career and his life – before and after

Few British footballers can match Viv Anderson’s fundamental role in ushering in a new era for black sportsmen. The legendary defender was the first black and second non-white England national team player playing in the 1980 European Championships and 1982 World Cup.

Fans watching football© Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels

Few British footballers can match Viv Anderson’s fundamental role in ushering in a new era for black sportsmen. The legendary defender was the first black and second non-white England national team player playing in the 1980 European Championships and 1982 World Cup.

Anderson also had an illustrious career at clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Manchester United, where he became Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing. He won five senior trophies, including two European Cups, during his time at the three clubs.

The Premier League is by far the most powerful worldwide football competition nowadays, but this wasn’t always the case. Anderson was instrumental in elevating English football’s profile in the late 70s and early 80s.

The defender’s no-nonsense approach was a dream for fans and sports bettors alike, who could always count on the Nottingham-born enforcer to generate excitement and maintain defensive solidity. A clean sheet was never a bad bet with him in the team.

There are plenty of modern-day players of his caliber to bet on across UK betting sites nowadays, but nobody with quite the same weight as Anderson. He has remained an important figure into his retirement, receiving an MBE in 2000 and being involved in charities.

Keep reading for an exploration into Viv Anderson’s life from his time as a football player until the present day.

Viv Anderson: England’s first black player

Anderson spent a year as a schoolboy with Manchester United before joining Nottingham Forest. He made headlines as being one of the first black players in English football, regularly subjected to racist chanting and abuse from the sidelines.

Nevertheless, the fact that Anderson broke into the English national setup is testimony to his iron will and resolve. He made his debut against Czechoslovakia in November 1978, quickly becoming a mainstay after his exploits for Nottingham Forest.

Breakthrough at Nottingham Forest

Anderson broke into the first team at Nottingham Forest in 1974, establishing himself as a key part of a legendary team managed by Brian Clough. In a feat that will probably never be achieved again, Forest won promotion in 1977 before winning the First Division title a year later.

Forest also won the 1977-78 and 1978-79 European Cup, as Clough molded an incredible team. Anderson was vital to his success, with marauding runs from his right-back position bringing to mind fullbacks like Cafu, or more recently, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

You cannot deny Anderson knew how to play as an exciting and defensively disciplined fullback. It makes it all the more exciting for players like Neco Williams, who recently received high praise after his move to Nottingham Forest.

Anderson and Forest began to run out of steam after 1980, and the defender left for Arsenal in 1984.

Transfer to Arsenal

While Anderson’s time at Arsenal didn’t quite hit the heights of his previous years at Forest, there was some success against Liverpool in the 1987 League Cup Final. He solidified himself as an England player in this period, playing in the 1986 World Cup.

The flamboyant fullback has gone down as a legend for the Gunners, a team he was also very fond of. We’re sure he still has one eye on Arsenal nowadays, especially with Mikel Arteta working his magic at the Emirates.

Gabriel Jesus reportedly wants Arsenal to wake up after their recent draw to Southampton, and we’re sure Anderson echoes this sentiment.

Alex Ferguson’s first Manchester United signing

Alex Ferguson made Anderson his first Manchester United signing in 1987, as he began rebuilding the squad. He was a significant part of the new-look team, adding vital experience and energy to the backline.

He helped United bounce back and finish second in the 1987-88 season, but age was beginning to catch up with him. Ferguson bought Denis Irwin in 1990, sealing Anderson’s fate. He finished his career at Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesbrough.

MBE in 1999

Viv Anderson finally gained solid recognition for his pivotal work during his football career when he received an MBE in 1999. The former player was involved in punditry and charity work after retiring, contributing to his recognition by Her Majesty the Queen.

A couple of years earlier, he was recognized as the first choice right back in Nottingham Forest’s all-time greatest XI, with 96% of supporters’ votes. He was also inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 2004, further consolidating himself as a bona fide legend.

Patron for youth against racism and charity activist

Aside from occasional work as a pundit, Viv Anderson has been instrumental in various charitable organizations since his retirement. He is a leading patron of Youth Against Racism, using his experience as a black player in the 70s and 80s to help instigate change.

Anderson is also involved in other charities relating to football and racism, and helping young people overcome the shackles of poverty and lack of opportunities.
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