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Viv Anderson, the First Black Player to Play for England

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the first appearance by a black player in the England team. Given that there were professional black players in England as early as 1885, three years before the Football League was even founded, it’s surprising that this milestone wasn’t crossed until 1978.

Daniel Taylor has a terrific profile of the player who crossed it, Viv Anderson, in the Guardian today. Anderson, who wound up being capped 30 times and playing in two World Cups, had a hand in the goal that led to England’s 1-0 win against Czechoslovakia. He remembers the applause he received from the 92,000 fans at Wembley: “It was a very positive reaction from the terraces. To them, it was all about the football.”

Still, Anderson played in an era before Kick It Out, for which he is now an ambassador, and, as Daniel Taylor notes, he frequently appeared in grounds where the National Front was handing out leaflets. With that in mind, it’s hard not to be impressed with the modesty he displays throughout the interview:

“I never had it that bad,” he says. “It was a lot easier for me than, say Laurie Cunningham or Cyrille Regis. They were flamboyant forwards so they were identified much more. Cyrille got a bullet through the post with the message: ‘This one’s for you if you play for England’. I never got anything like that because I was just a defender who used to boot people.”

It’s worth reading the whole piece, if for no other reason than as a reminder, with the world going crazy over Steven Gerrard’s 10th anniversary at Liverpool, that there are more important anniversaries happening on the same day. You’ll also find some fresh reasons to love Brian Clough, Anderson’s manager at Nottingham Forest, in case you’re in need of them:

In one game at Carlisle United, a rival player started whispering racist insults in his ear. Brian Clough was quickly out of his dug-out, telling him to kick his opponent and “call him a white bastard”.

It’s not Gandhi, I guess. But I’ll take it.


Viv Anderson, the First Black Player to Play for England

by Brian Phillips · November 28, 2008

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