REVIEW: First Among Unequals by Viv Anderson & Lynton Guest
First Among Unequals by Viv Anderson & Lynton Guest
Published by Right Recordings
Rejection by Manchester United as a youngster did not harm Viv Anderson’s career in any way. League champion, European Cup winner – when it was a proper Champions competition – League Cup winner, England international; his list of managers is a veritable Who’s Who of English football: Brian Clough, Don Howe, George Graham, Alex Ferguson, Ron Atkinson.
No grudges are borne against any, Anderson leaving most on good terms although you suspect that Graham took a while longer to forgive due to the acrimonious circumstances in which he left Highbury, his fee set by a transfer tribunal.
Anderson’s admission that his memory is not entirely reliable is a clue to this yet he provides an entertaining tale, a reflection of his career which is never less than honest. Given that he was the first black player capped at international level by England and the era in which he played, you would expect racism to have been a central issue.
It is not, explained early on that Anderson feels he never experienced excessive overt prejudice as a player. Perhaps he did but I suspect he was more capable of pushing it to one side than he gives himself credit for. Certainly Newcastle fans get an unworthy mention on this subject but at the same time praise.
His story makes clear that from a young age, he was utterly besotted by football and the rejection by the club he supported cut deep and was a spur to prove himself at his local club, Nottingham Forest. Anderson was a key member of the side in their Golden Age noting that training was always with the ball rather than concentrating on the physical aspects of the game. Sound familiar?
This was Anderson’s time as well. Victories at home and abroad are remembered less well than the walks Clough preferred before the matches on foreign fields. Clough is remembered with affection, my favourite recollection of the man disparaging the sign in the tunnel at Liverpool: “This is Anfield – so f***ing what?” should surely become a footballing legend. Forest though, queered their pitch with Anderson for churlishly pulling out of a charity match to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the club’s first European triumph.
As Forest’s grip on the English game waned, Anderson signed for Arsenal having been ‘tapped up’ by Don Howe in person. His enjoyed his time at Highbury, sad to see the demise of Howe following the then manager’s conversion to the theories of Charles Hughes. Anderson makes no bones about how this contributed largely to ‘The Don‘s’ downfall. It left him subjected to the delights of George Graham’s regime.
Tying together the back four proved an effective method of instilling defensive discipline in the players and it is apparent that they knew that the potential for good times was there. For Anderson, the lure of Manchester United proved too strong and the transfer was conducted through the back pages, a turn of events the player regrets.
It also proved to be the start of persistent injury problems which would adversely affect his international career. Anderson was capped 30 times for England but only made one appearance in a finals tournament, the 1980 European Championships in the final group stage match against Spain, the right back berth being favoured more towards Gary Stevens of Everton.
That Anderson failed to win the FA Cup is down to Arsenal. His departure from Old Trafford to Hillsborough mirroring that of his exit from Arsenal; both teams went onto win titles shortly after Anderson left! His managerial career began at Barnsley where he started the job of turning the club around following Mel Machin’s reign. It lasted one season before he joined Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough.
The duo forming a management partnership is no surprise, they emerge as firm friends from the book. Anderson admires the way in which Robson ‘took out’ Vinnie Jones without so much of a blink of the eye. The details of his fracas with John Fashanu show the Wimbledon man in an appalling light, their fight followed by a suggestion by Fashanu that an affair be concocted between himself and Anderson’s then wife to make money out of the media.
Anderson is critical of the England 2018 World Cup bid, particularly the failure to invite black players to the Launch Party although the FA saw fit to invite the BNP. Despite this, he is still supportive of the attempt to host the tournament and recognises the potential for good that it has.
If you are too young to remember Anderson, think Sagna’s defensive nous with Eboue’s attacking flair. Possibly the best right back the club has had in since Pat Rice was playing. Click to buy here to buy this enjoyable yarn.