Viv Anderson

First black footballer to represent England

By Rob Burns

Viv Anderson, byname of Vivian Anderson, (born July 29, 1956, Nottingham, England), professional football (soccer) player and the first person of African descent (his parents were from the West Indies) to play for England’s national football team. Anderson, 1.85 metres (6 feet 1 inch) tall, was known as ‘Spider’ for his long legs and his ability as a defender in cleanly winning balls in skirmishes.

Viv Anderson broke through the taboos to become the first black player to appear in a full international for England, making his senior debut against Czechoslovakia in 1978. In his career Anderson earned 30 ‘caps’ for playing on England’s national team. However, this classy full-back or central defender and his excellent ball-skills deserve to be remembered for more than just that.

During a long and glittering career with some of England’s leading clubs, he won everything the domestic game had to offer.

Viv won the European Cup 1979, 1980; European Supercup 1979 and played 10 outstanding years with Nottingham Forest. Anderson also played for Arsenal (1984–87), Manchester United (1987–91) and Sheffield Wednesday (1991–93); he was a player/manager for Barnsley (1993–94) and a player/assistant coach for Middlesbrough (1994–2001) during his distinguished career.

Anderson, who now leads the Playonpro organisation that helps former professional athletes find new careers, said:

“We’ve got to educate our next generation that this [racism] is not acceptable in 2020. “

“People like Paul Ince, myself, Rio Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke — people who have been through the bad times with stories to tell — should be utilised in many ways.

With the killing of George Floyd, Anderson went on:

“If I was still playing I think I would do it [take the knee], of course.

“The Premier League and FA must say it [Floyd’s death] is not acceptable and you are within your rights to get down on one knee to show solidarity for someone who has lost their life in America.

“These things happen all the time in the UK. To say it happens in America, but doesn’t happen here, is very naive. It’s very stupid to think that way.

“Taking a knee is a gesture, which shows the right frame of mind and should be done. But tackling racism is a long-term thing.”

He was awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1999, and in 2004 he was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.


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