Good, Bad & Ugly: Nottingham Forest legend Viv Anderson

by Matt Badcock

VIV ANDERSON went from making tea and fetching sandwiches to a European Cup winner.

Part of Brian Clough’s legendary Nottingham Forest who won promotion from the Second Division, followed it up with the First Division title and then were crowned champions of Europe twice, Anderson has a bulging trophy cabinet.

He was also the first black player capped by England, earning 30 caps in all, won the League Cup with Arsenal and the FA Cup with Manchester United. He featured in a League Cup final and an FA Cup final with Sheffield Wednesday, before moving across Yorkshire into player-management at Barnsley.

Now an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK, Anderson will be cycling to Amsterdam for the charity in June.  Here, he takes a trip down memory lane with The FLP, recalling winning promotion at 30,000ft, the time the bus went missing at Middlesbrough and why he’s getting on his bike…

First Club

I made my debut for Nottingham Forest when I was 17. I’d been at Manchester United for a year in the school holidays – back and forth, back and forth – but then they said they weren’t going to give me a contract. So I went back to Nottingham, where I was from, and got a job. In theory I was a silk-screen printer, but really I was a glorified tea boy. They’d tell me what they’d want and I’d get their sandwiches at lunch time, too. I did that for five weeks before Forest asked me to play in their youth team. I was an apprentice for about five months and then I signed pro.

To make my debut was great, especially for someone so young. I’d had the disappointment of not being taken on by Manchester United so I was just pleased to be lucky enough to get a chance.

I was a Manchester United fan. Where we trained we had Best, Law and Charlton on the next pitch, so it’s a bit difficult to watch anyone else, but it was nice to play for my hometown club.

Best manager

I’ve been fortunate. I worked under Terry Venables with England Under-21s, Bobby Robson with England, Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson. So I’ve had some really good managers, but it would probably be between Brian and Alex.

When they walk in a room they demand your attention and the biggest thing for me is they both played football in the right way. It’s pass and move, and try to entertain the supporters.

When push comes to shove, I say Brian Clough for one reason and one reason only.  Manchester United have all the best facilities, the best coaches, the best training ground. Nottingham Forest came from nowhere to do what they did, on a small budget, 19,000 average gates. It was only for a short time – what Sir Alex did at Manchester United will never be beaten – but those five years I was in that Nottingham Forest team were amazing. There’s not much in it, but I’d just take Cloughie.

Best team-mate

Bryan Robson. He was nicknamed Captain Marvel by Bobby Robson and he did everything that epitomises a midfielder.  You’d want him in the trenches with you. He was great in the tackle, great in the air, a great passer and scored goals. Exactly what you need when your team’s not doing well, 0-0 with ten minutes to go, he’s the sort of person who got the best out of you.

First promotion

In 1976-77 we finished third in the old Second Division to get promoted to the First Division. And the way we found out is very Cloughie-esque – the pilot told us during a flight to Majorca! We were all apprehensive and halfway through the journey he announced it. A few bottles of champagne were popped and we celebrated to the max when we arrived, don’t worry!

First promotion: Brian Clough and Peter Taylor steered Forest to the top flight in 1977 whereupon silverware would be won

First promotion: Brian Clough and Peter Taylor steered Forest to the top flight in 1977 whereupon silverware would be won (photo by Action Images)

Funniest player

Paul Gascoigne. When I was assistant manager to Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough, we bought him from Rangers. He was entertaining from the minute he walked through the door to when he left. He has his demons, but deep down he’s a really funny lad. And he loved his football. He’d walk over hot coals to play and, if there were some kids playing in a park, he’d be the first over with them.

Half the time he probably didn’t know he was being funny, but you could never sit still when he was around.

Funniest incident

Middlesbrough were playing Aston Villa away. We had our meal at the training ground before leaving. We came outside and there was no bus. So I said to the players, ‘Where’s Gascoigne?’

No one knew and we couldn’t get him on his mobile. Then Gazza turns up driving this bus – he’d taken it by himself into the village to put a bet on at the bookies!

He said, ‘What’s the problem, I only went to the bookies!’ He must have thought he was driving a car when he was going out of the gate at the training ground. It’s quite tight and he scraped the side of the bus and did £10,000 worth of damage. Monday morning he paid it straightaway.  That was him. Off the wall.

Biggest achievement

People will say winning the European Cup twice would be a big one but I’d say winning the league that first year in 1977-78 because doing it across a whole season is no fluke.

I’m not saying the European Cup was a fluke – it actually was a Champions League then where you had to win your league to qualify, not finish third or fourth like now – but it was an eight-game knockout.

Eight games in the league is not the same, so you had to be consistent week-in, week-out and that was more of a thing for me. To be consistently good for nine months, that’s the true sign of a good team and really good players so I always judge myself on that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to win the FA Cup and the European Cup but to win any domestic league takes a lot of concentration, hard work and endeavour.

Lowest moment

I dislocated my kneecap and snapped my ligaments in my left leg when I was 17 playing in a reserve match. Luckily enough, the surgeon Forest used was the best in the world. I was operated on that night and five months later I was playing again.

After that the surgeon would go around the world for seminars and lectures using my x-rays to say, ‘This boy is still playing’. But it was a low point, especially when you’re so young, and took a lot to come back from.

Toughest place to go

I made my debut for Forest on the Saturday and on the Wednesday we had a League Cup tie at Newcastle. Malcolm Macdonald, John Tudor – to go up against players like them, who were superstars at the time, was very intimidating. I walked out to look at the pitch and I was booed. Every touch I took was booed. It was tough.

Toughest opponent

They’re all tough until you’re 3-0 up! I had some good battles with John Barnes. If you asked him who his toughest opponent was he’d probably say me and I’m saying him because we had some ding-dongs. Liverpool v Man United were always big games anyway.

As was Forest against West Brom. Both clubs were in a good place, West Brom had players like Laurie Cunningham, Derek Statham, Cyrille Regis – so there was lots of talk about both teams and the good players we had. Their left winger was Willie Johnston and we had some ding-dong battles as well.

Favourite place to go

Goodison Park at night – the grass would light up. Old Trafford was great, Arsenal at Highbury too, but Everton was really special for me.

Favourite place to go: Goodison Park delivered a special atmosphere for players (photo by Action Images)

Favourite place to go: Goodison Park delivered a special atmosphere for players (photo by Action Images)


Try not to make the headline: Viv Anderson falls in a canal in Amsterdam because he couldn’t negotiate his bike! I’m joining Prostate Cancer UK’s Football to Amsterdam bike ride in June. Hopefully we can make a few bob because it’s a really worthwhile cause.

The statistics are one in eight white men get it and one in four black men so it’s really important to raise awareness, too.

I’ve been measured up for my bike and hopefully I can get through it having not ridden one for 30 years!

Prostate Cancer UK, the Official Charity Partner of The Football League, will stage the Football to Amsterdam cycle challenge from June 3-5, 2016 with riders now able to roll out from London and a new start point in Yorkshire, Oakwell, home of Barnsley FC. Registration is £149, and for more information about the ride, visit prostatecanceruk.org/amster- dam or contact the cycling team by calling 0203 310 7034 or emailing cycling@prostatecanceruk.org.

Factfile: Viv Anderson

Born: Nottingham, 1956 (Age 59)


A right-back, Anderson signed for his hometown club Nottingham Forest aged 17 having been in Manchester United’s youth set-up. After becoming a regular in Brian Clough’s side, he helped Forest win promotion to the First Division in 1977.

That was immediately followed up with the league title and the League Cup before two famous European Cup wins in 1979, when they beat Malmo, and 1980, as they overcame Hamburg. Anderson also won another League Cup and the European Super Cup and made his England debut, the first black player to do so, in 1978 against Czechoslovakia. He was picked for the European Championships squad in 1980 and the World Cup in 1982, but he didn’t play a game.


After more than 300 appearances for Forest, Arsenal paid £250,000 for his services. The move helped him reclaim his place in the England squad. Anderson played 120 times for Arsenal and won the League Cup against Liverpool.


Alex Ferguson’s first signing at Old Trafford – a tribunal priced him at £250,000 – Anderson won an FA Cup winner’s medal, although he wasn’t in the final squad, in 1990 and added a European Cup Winners’ Cup to his collection in 1991.


Joined Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer and helped the Owls to promotion from the Second Division. Was cup-tied for Wednesday’s League Cup win over Manchester United that same season and was part of the side which finished third in the Premier League in 1993 and lost both the League Cup and FA Cup finals to Arsenal.


Appointed player-manager of Barnsley before he became Bryan Robson’s assistant at Middlesbrough in 1994. They reached the League Cup and FA Cup finals as well as winning promotion to the Premier League.


Anderson hasn’t had a job in management since leaving Middlesbrough but was awarded an MBE in 2000 and inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum in 2004.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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