As part of our coverage during Black History Month, Zack Palmer details the career of legendary Nottingham Forest and England Player, Viv Anderson.
Almost forty-two years ago, in a friendly match against Czechoslovakia at Wembley, then-England manager Ron Greenwood named a line-up that included 22 year-old Viv Anderson. Nicknamed ‘The Spider’ for his gangly legs, Anderson’s performance at right-back would help see England victorious. This, however, is not a game remembered for England’s overcoming of the European champions. Nor was it a debut like any other. November 1978 marked the first full international appearance of a Black player for England.
Anderson contributed to Forest making it back-to-back European titles in 1980, starting the final against Hamburg SV
In 1956 Viv Anderson was born in Clifton, Nottingham. To great pride, he became a regular for Forest in 1974 when Brian Clough arrived to helm the team. While his England career was defined by inclusions in squads but not many opportunities to play, his Forest career was defined by his ever-presence in the team. This reached the pinnacle when he started at right-back for Clough’s side in the 1979 European Cup final. The competition had seen the plucky English club beat fellow compatriots and two-time winners Liverpool (as well as AEK Athens, Grasshoppers and 1.FC Köln) in the run-up to the final.
The final saw them defeat Malmö FF 1-0. Anderson’s endurance of racist chants and thrown bananas throughout his career had led him here. Winning a European Cup is a spectacular achievement for any player under any circumstance, but for Anderson to persist in what was an unjust and demeaning environment makes it impossible not to shower him with even greater admiration.
These victories remain the pride of Nottingham Forest, easily the club’s greatest achieve […] and Viv Anderson was instrumental to them achieving this. He is Forest royalty
Viv Anderson contributed to Forest making it back-to-back European titles in 1980, starting in the final against Hamburg SV. These victories remain the pride of Nottingham Forest, easily the club’s greatest achieve. Nottingham Forest, now exiled from the top tier of English football for over twenty years, were recognised as the best team in Europe, and Viv Anderson was instrumental to them achieving this. He is Forest royalty.
Anderson went on to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing as Manchester United manager. With everything the Scotsman went on to achieve with the Red Devils, this can only be seen as a further reflection of Anderson’s tremendous ability.
He won domestic titles. He won European titles. He played for some of the biggest teams in domestic and world football
Viv Anderson was an outstanding player, and his career trajectory was a turning point for English football. He won domestic titles. He won European titles. He played for some of the biggest teams in domestic and world football. Most importantly, he did all of this as a Black man in the late 20th century. He paved the way for Black English players to play on the same stages as him, and to achieve the same accolades as him.
As we look back and celebrate the talent of Viv Anderson, as well as the historic and cultural importance of his milestones, we must also look forward and realise that so much more needs to be done. If Anderson’s appearances for England were the start, then we are nowhere near the end.
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