‘Trail­blazer? I was just a young black kid who wanted to play foot­ball’

Yes­ter­day was the 40th an­niver­sary of Viv An­der­son’s Eng­land de­but – when he be­came the first black player to be capped for his coun­try. Jim van Wijk looks back at that landmark mo­ment and con­sid­ers how far the game has come since

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Sport -

VIV An­der­son never saw him­self as a ‘trail­blazer’ when he be­came the first black player to earn a full se­nior Eng­land in­ter­na­tional cap 40 years ago.

A tele­gram from the Queen, and an­other from El­ton John, were both sent to the then 22-year-old Not­ting­ham For­est de­fender to mark the oc­ca­sion on Novem­ber 29, 1978.

But four decades on, An­der­son feels foot­ball still has a long way to go to help BAME (Black, Asian, and mi­nor­ity eth­nic) coaches get over “the next hur­dle”.

An­der­son was called up by Ron Green­wood for the game against Cze­choslo­vakia at Wem­b­ley, which put the young de­fender firmly in the spot­light. The sig­nif­i­cance of the oc­ca­sion, though, was the fur­thest thing from his mind at the time.

“I was just a young black kid who wanted to play foot­ball, that was it. Trail­blazer, or what­ever, it never en­tered my head for one sec­ond, even with all the pub­lic­ity we had be­fore­hand,” An­der­son said.

“The only thing at the fore­front of my mind was the match – make sure you have a first touch, the first header is a good one, pass it to a team­mate, all the ba­sic things you do week in, week out, and that is what I had to con­cen­trate on. Ev­ery­thing else on the pe­riph­ery went over my head.

“My to­tal fo­cus was I just wanted to be in the next squad. Idols of mine were Kevin Kee­gan, Trevor Brook­ing, Bob Latch­ford… I was in awe to train with them and be a part of it.

“The only way I could be was play­ing as well as I could do on my de­but, and if I could do well enough, then I would be in the next one, and the one after that.

“It was to­tal tun­nel vi­sion of what I wanted to achieve, be­cause I liked be­ing in their company.”

An­der­son would go on to be part of Eng­land’s 1980 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship squad, the only black player in­cluded, and again at the World Cup in Spain, before winger John Barnes joined him for Mex­ico ’86.

Along with other black foot­ballers dur­ing that era, the de­fender, who won the Euro­pean Cup twice with For­est before join­ing Arse­nal in

The great Mr (Brian) Clough said to me: ‘If you are go­ing to let peo­ple on the ter­races, or in life, get to you, by shout­ing things or throw­ing things, then you are no good to me’… I took that on board re­ally early on be­cause I wanted to be a foot­baller more than any­thing else

1984, had to reg­u­larly en­dure racist abuse from the ter­races.

An­der­son – who would be­come Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s first sign­ing at Manch­ester United and went on to have spells at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, Barns­ley and Mid­dles­brough – re­called how he was de­ter­mined to stay fo­cused on his foot­ball.

“The great Mr (Brian) Clough said to me: ‘If you are go­ing to let peo­ple on the ter­races, or in life, get to you, by shout­ing things or throw­ing things, then you are no good to me. I will pick some­body else, be­cause I can rely on them, and I can’t rely on you, be­cause you are too wor­ried about what peo­ple say or do’.

“I took that on board re­ally early on – I must have been about 18 or 19 – be­cause I wanted to be a foot­baller more than any­thing else.

“What is the al­ter­na­tive? Go some- where else and have the same prob­lems again and again? It was com­ing from a time when you just had to get on with it, and if you didn’t then you suf­fered in your ca­reer, and that was a non-starter for me.”

A Press As­so­ci­a­tion Sport study has tracked the pro­gres­sion from An­der­son’s first tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance to Gareth South­gate’s Eng­land squad at the 2018 World Cup, which fea­tured 12 BAME play­ers out of 23 – 52 per cent of the most di­verse group to date.

An­der­son, who was player-man­ager at Barns­ley dur­ing 1993-1994 and also worked un­der Bryan Rob­son at Mid­dles­brough, hopes it will not be such a long wait for a BAME coach to be given a chance in the Eng­land hot seat.

“Young black kids wanted to see Clyde Best, to be like him, other kids

like Rio (Fer­di­nand) said they wanted to be like Viv An­der­son. Now on the man­age­ment side there is very few to chose from, so that is the next hur­dle,” said the 62-year-old, who will be tak­ing part in Prostate Can­cer UK’s Foot­ball to Am­s­ter­dam bike ride next June.

“Is it down to owners? To peo­ple who run foot­ball? I don’t know why it has not evolved, even more so. We are a multi-na­tion coun­try now.

“If it is the ‘Rooney Rule’ that brings it back into promi­nence, then try it, be­cause we have tried ev­ery­thing else for 20 years which has not worked.

“It has to be done prop­erly, not just lip ser­vice, and see where it goes from there.

“Up to this point, it has been very lit­tle, there are only three or four coaches now. As long as they have the qual­i­fi­ca­tions, they should be given the op­por­tu­nity.”

Viv An­der­son will be tak­ing part in Prostate Can­cer UK’s Foot­ball to Am­s­ter­dam bike ride for a fourth time on June 7-9 2019 Visit prostate­can­ceruk.org/am­s­ter­dam for de­tails of the ride or spon­sor Viv at www.justgiv­ing.com/ fundrais­ing/ vi­van­der­son5.

Viv An­der­son play­ing for Eng­land against Hun­gary in 1989

Viv An­der­son walk­ing out at Wem­b­ley for his Eng­land de­but be­hind Dave Wat­son and ahead of Tony Wood­cock and Peter Barnes

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