In 1976 Viv Anderson signs for Stylo Matchmakers. Later in 1978 Viv becomes the first black football player to represent England in a full international. Viv Anderson spent a year as a schoolboy with Manchester United before being released. He returned to Nottingham where at school he sat and passed three CSEs. He then worked for three weeks as a silkscreen printer that he described as “a glorified tea boy really. I’d get the tea, and get the sandwiches at lunchtime. I was just a dogsbody.” Viv Anderson had broken into the Nottingham Forest team during 1974 and became a regular after the arrival of Brian Clough as manager of the East Midlands club, then in the Second Division, in January 1975. He was part of the side that won promotion to the First Division in 1977, winning the title, along with the League Cup, a year later. Viv Anderson was one of the first black players to represent top English clubs at the time, and regularly suffered racial abuse from fans of rival teams. He was regularly pelted with bananas and targeted with racist chants.
When Anderson received the call-up for England in November 1978, for a friendly against Czechoslovakia, 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 that retained the League Cup and then clinched the European Cup in 1979 with victory over Malmö.
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 finally won the 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 £250,000. This duly helped Anderson revitalize 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 a reserve.
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 seven years when Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2–1 in the League Cup final.
Later the same year, in a tribunal agreed £250,000 deal he became Alex Ferguson’s first signing since taking over as manager of Manchester United.
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 traveled 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 international career ended.
At Old Trafford Anderson was a significant part of Alex Ferguson’s rebuilding plans as he attempted to create a title-winning side to end the wait that had started at the club in 1967. Following a dismal start to the 1986–87 season that had cost Ron Atkinson his job on 5 November, Ferguson had steered United from 21st to 11th of 22 First Division clubs in the final six months of the campaign. Anderson played his part in United’s continued improvement in 1987–88, as they finished second in the league but never really looked like overhauling Liverpool, who finished champions by a nine-point margin with just two defeats all season as well as a 29-match unbeaten start to the 40-game campaign.
Anderson remained first-choice right-back in 1988–89, but United had a slow start to the season and despite an upturn in their form in the new year that saw them climb to third place by mid-February, a dismal final quarter of the season dragged them down to 11th place. Despite finishing 13th in the league in 1989–90, United won the FA Cup – but Anderson was not in the squad for the final. He had managed 21 games in all competitions that season but Alex Ferguson had chosen Paul Ince – normally a central midfielder – as his right-back for the first match (a 3–3 draw with Crystal Palace) and also the replay five days later, which ended in a 1–0 win.
Anderson’s hopes of winning his place back in the 1990–91 season were crushed when Ferguson paid Oldham Athletic £625,000 for Denis Irwin, who quickly established himself as the first-choice right-back, while Ince switched back to central midfield. He played just three more games for the club, and on his final appearance for them in the Football League Cup second round second leg against Halifax Town on 10 October 1990 he scored their first goal in a 2–1 win that gave a 5–2 aggregate victory.
Anderson joined Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer 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. Despite originally being thought of as a short-term signing, Anderson established himself in the Wednesday first team and captained the side on many occasions. He played an active part in the Owls team that finished third in the 1991–92 First Division and seventh in the first season of the Premier League. He also 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’s manner on the pitch made him an obvious choice for management and in June 1993 he left Hillsborough to be appointed player-manager of Barnsley following the departure of Mel Machin. However, his first season at Oakwell was a disappointment as Barnsley narrowly avoided relegation to Division Two.
At the end of 1993–94, Viv Anderson quit Barnsley after just a year to become assistant manager of Middlesbrough under former Old Trafford teammate Bryan Robson.
Despite retiring from playing football in 1994, Viv Anderson was still officially registered as a player and following an injury crisis at Middlesbrough he played two games for the club in 1994–95 when they were promoted to the Premier League as Division One champions. After gaining promotion he finally hung up his playing boots.
Anderson helped Robson assemble a side that reached both domestic cup finals (both of which they lost) in 1996–97, although they were relegated due to a three-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 when Terry Venables was brought in with the club facing relegation. Despite never achieving anything higher than ninth place in the final table the duo had managed to establish Boro in the Premier League.