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Premier League - Football: Exclusive interview with Viv Anderson

In 1978, Viv Anderson became the first black player to represent the England senior team. He'd go on to earn 30 England caps, as well as playing for Arsenal and Manchester United, after being a part of Nottingham Forest's two-time European Cup-winning sides. He sat down with bet365 to discuss the upcoming season, the fortunes of some of his former clubs, and his role as a pioneer in English football.


Premier League chiefs were due to consult with senior players to decide whether to continue to “take the knee” before games in the 2022/23 season. What do you feel is the best course of action going forward? Is there still much to gain from the anti-racism gesture, as some have argued that it is time for it to be dropped?

I think if you're living in Africa and you're watching the Premier League and you manage to see the boys taking the knee, you're going to ask the question why they're doing it. So I'd continue taking it. It sends out a statement to everybody that doesn't know what's happened, so I think footballers should continue to take the knee but it's a personal choice and a club choice.

It's got to come from the authorities ultimately, so if the Premier League mandates all clubs have to do it, then I suggest they take the knee. I quite like it. I understand some don't, I understand their reasons why, but I think it should be kept as it starts a conversation.

Some players don't take the knee, if that reaches a threshold of more than fifty percent would that do more harm than good?

It might do, but you have to take on board individual feelings. You can't make sure everyone does it or feels forced to. I can only talk personally, if I was still playing, I'd definitely take the knee.

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What sort of punishments do you think should be enforced now for racist behaviour from those attending matches in English football?

I think they should be banned. If you're found giving racist abuse and people around you hear and see what you're doing, you should be banned from that club.

The deterrent should be as stringent as that. If you ban people, others will be wary of doing it. So, ban them from football stadiums.

We don't want racists in our football stadiums and people shouting that abuse should in my view never be allowed to return to that football stadium again.

Due to a lack of elite football academies for girls, it has emerged how must currently pay £50 a month to play for Premier League football clubs, while boys train for free. Do you follow in the view taken by the likes of Gary Lineker, who has led calls to scrap girls paying to play football? And are you surprised to hear of this still being the case for girls in 2022, while the senior international women prepare to play in the final of the Euros?

Yeah, I agree, it should be the same for everybody. You look at the emergence of the women's game over the last month - it's been fantastic. I've been tuning in and I'll be tuning in on Sunday too. I don't see why girls should be paying £50 and everybody else not, so I agree with Gary.

It should be enjoyed by all, and you shouldn't have to pay money to do that.

What do you make of Jesse Lingard’s motivation for joining Nottingham Forest and how he went about choosing his next club (cryptic posts on TikTok and Instagram etc)? Would you understand ill-feeling from West Ham fans when they visit the City Ground on August 14? Reports suggest they will throw fake cash at him.

I don't look at TikTok, my children do but I don't! Why did Jesse do that? You have to look at the history of Forest, if he can achieve something there it will be huge.

He's on a free transfer from Manchester United, it's only an hour and a half from Manchester where he lives at the moment, he doesn't have to sell his house and they're exciting.

The manager's bought well, his past record is very good, look at when he took over when they were bottom of the league and to achieve what he achieved it's clear he's a really good manager. He plays them right, plays football in the right way which will suit Jesse so Jesse going to a football club where he knows chapter and verse what they do and their history.

And if he can achieve something there, he might sign for another year after that because they've achieved a lot more than he thought they would do. I'm looking forward to Jesse playing.

It's a surprise I must admit, everyone thought he'd go to West Ham but fair play to Nottingham Forest, they've come in, made an offer and got him. Everyone talks about the wages but at the end of the day it's about him playing football and enjoying playing football.

You could go to Timbuktu for trillions of pounds if you wanted to, but he chose to go to Nottingham Forest and it's great for the club to get someone in of his calibre who's played at the top level and chose them over anything else.

I'm surprised West Ham didn't match the wages, but I don't think it's about that. I think it's about the people and what they're trying to achieve there.

Do you understand the ill feeling from West Ham fans?

I thought it was a nailed-on certainty that he was going back to West Ham, but it went on and it went on and I just wondered why the deal hadn't been done. There's no transfer fee so they were clearly talking about money between the parties.

They couldn't agree so Jesse's people said listen, it's clear we're not going to get anywhere, other teams are interested and fair play to Nottingham Forest because nobody thought they'd sign him. They've been in the doldrums for a few years, but with the finances and the backing of the owner, they're trying to get back to where they should be.

They have a good chance of staying up this season. Brentford broke the mould so, why can't Forest? Fulham bought 13 players and still went down. It's a tough league, it's going to be interesting - let's see where they are at Christmas time, fingers crossed they stay up come the end of the season.

Manchester United - big talking point about Ronaldo and him trying to force a move away. Would that suit all parties now, with a week to go?

I wouldn't personally get rid of Ronaldo. He's still the top goalscorer for Manchester United. It's a personal decision. He's only got one season left and you never know, if he does well again and scores as many as last year, he might say he'll stay for another season.

In terms of how the dressing room would feel, they don't want people who don't want to be there but now he's made his decision and the club's made their decision, the quicker he can move on, the better it will be for everyone and the quicker they can bring replacements in.

Once it's got to this stage where it's perfectly clear he doesn't want to stay, he's brought his advisors for talks this week, the club have said alright, find a club and let's get on with it. You don't want it dragging on and on.

Do you think Martial and Rashford can kick on this season?

I've seen a few of the games and both of them have started really well, but I still think they need another two in the door to keep it fresh.

They both look sharp, it's still pre-season and they're still getting their fitness for the first Premier League games and that's when you're judged, not in pre-season.

But they can't do any more than they're doing, scoring goals, creating goals and looking sharp. A lot better than last season.

Clean slate, new manager and let's see what they can achieve. But I think they need one to two need forwards to keep it fresh.

We saw Sir Alex rocking up to Manchester United the other day and appeared to be attending the meeting with Ronaldo. Do you think he holds too much power at the club still?

I saw that as him being there for his monthly meeting with the CEO, he wasn't there for the meeting with Ronaldo.

He might have had an input, but he has a monthly meeting with the Chief Executive to catch-up but he's always going to have a say, whoever the manager of Manchester United because of what Sir Alex Ferguson has done for that club.

It's like when Sir Alex went there, I was one of the first signings with Brian McClair and people compared us to former players like Bobby Charlton. So you're always going to have that somebody there you have to be as good as, if not better than.

And that's what Erik ten Hag has got to come to terms with. He's not daft, he's come there for the reason to build something, and it takes time. It's not going to happen overnight, and this season could be finding out the best system and best players.

We're not going to be challenging Man City and Liverpool, there's still a lot to do and we need another four or five players through the door.

It seems very difficult to get people in too, for whatever reason.

All or Nothing Amazon documentary - how would you have reacted to that as a player?

I would have hated every second of it. Fly on the wall documentaries I hate them. Especially if it's about you.

The inner sanctum is the dressing room and should be kept as such. I was brought up under the management of Brian Clough and nothing ever got out the dressing room. The same as Sir Alex Ferguson, nothing ever got out the dressing room.

I couldn't imagine in a million years, Sir Alex agreeing to a fly on the wall documentary because there would be too much swearing, too many pots being thrown about, and I don't agree with it, and I wouldn't like it.

If the club told me I had to do it, whenever they're filming, I'd be somewhere else.

As a former right-back yourself, what is your opinion on the debate between Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Manchester United?

I think one's good at going forward and one's good at being a defender. A combination of the two would be some player. When Wan-Bissaka first went, I quite liked him at Crystal Palace, but you have to do a lot more going forwards at Manchester United.

You have to create things because the emphasis is on you to beat the opposition, especially at home.

The full backs are key, they have to be able to push forward and get back. Wan-Bissaka's got better at going forward but I still think he needs a lot of improvement.

Dalot was on the fringes a lot but the manager's come in and put him in before Wan-Bissaka and he's clearly going to be the one starting the season. Aaron's got the train hard, work hard and when he gets his opportunity he's got to show the manager what he can do.

How do you view Harry Maguire’s situation at the club? Do you think Erik Ten Hag should make his faith in him clear by sticking with him or should he be removed as captain?

He can't do anymore; he's said he's my captain and he's bought another centre half so it's going to be interesting the selection. Does he play three at the back, does he play two and leave one of them out? Interesting times for Manchester United.

The stick he gets is not uncalled for I think, he's Manchester United captain, it's a learning curve. He's come from Hull to Leicester and there's a big jump to Manchester United and it's a big step up. The expectations are high, you're going there with huge names to have historically played for the club, so you've got to live up to the expectations.

He seems like he's getting there, but on Erik ten Hag, I don't think he can do much more, he's come out and said Harry Maguire will be my captain next season, so hopefully his performances dictate that.

How do you see Erik ten Hag faring at the club? Do you think he'll get the backing that he needs? How do you think he'll do?

Manchester United in the last five or six years they've had so many different managers. Ten Hag is a young manager, still fairly inexperienced just coming from the Dutch league, as opposed to the managers who'd come before him. He had to be given time, or you cannot build anything.

Manchester United has a tradition of sticking by managers prior to Sir Alex Ferguson - who was there for twenty-five years.

In his first season, they were talking about getting rid of him before they went on the cup run and ended up winning the FA Cup. After that time, the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Butt, and the Nevilles all came through and then they went on to win all sorts of things.

To build anything you have to give people time and I think Ten Hag is young enough to be given time. I think the owners see that and while I don't think Manchester United will be challenging for the league this year, give him enough time to get his foot in the door as he's never managed in the Premier League. For me, it's the hardest league in the world and he's still short of players.

I don't think they should judge him on this upcoming season. Give him two seasons at least to get the right players in that he needs to get them back to the level that everybody expects. I don't think it's going to happen overnight; I think two years minimum. I hope it's a shorter time but who knows!

It's a strange thing football, you never know, some things might click. We're talking about Martial, Rashford and all the players that were poor last year, some went out on loan, didn't do very well, come back and something clicks, and it all goes on from there.

Let's wait and see and not judge him too harshly early on as he's still building something that's going to potentially live for another ten years.

You've been lucky to play for some massive clubs over the years, Forest, United, Arsenal, etc. Which team in the Premier League has done the best business so far in the transfer window?

I like what Arsenal have done. I like what Tottenham's done. They've both spent well.

Having said that, Manchester City have bought, arguably, the best centre-forward in Europe for a really good price. Then you've got Liverpool who've bought a centre-forward with a big reputation in Nunez.

It's going to be an interesting start to the season. If I had to choose who's done the best business, I would say between Arsenal and Tottenham. Daniel Levy doesn't really spend money and he's got a manager who's come to him, said "I want money to spend because we're in the Champions League", twisted his arm and he's got what he's wanted. Hopefully, they can produce.

What was your experience of Manchester United in the early days of Ferguson's reign? Could you have predicted the football dynasty that was in the making and were there any indications of what Sir Alex was building?

I always remember when I first went there, he took me to the training ground, and I said: "you must be mad". Manchester United manager at the time was not a good job to have. You could see from his expression and his answer to that question that we wanted to build something. He came here to build a dynasty. You saw that in his eyes.
 
In fairness, I saw bits of that when I met him in a hotel in Nottingham prior to signing. You could see that he was passionate about building something. So, am I surprised? No. He was so driven early on.

How do you look back on the fact you were the first black man to represent England? Do you have a feeling of pride that you were able to represent your nation or is it a feeling of sadness that it took until 1978 for a black man to play for England?

First and foremost, I'm very privileged and honoured to be the first senior black player.

I was not the first black player to play for England, though, that was a lad called Laurie Cunningham who's sadly not with us - but he was the first black under-21 England international.

We shared a room together in Bulgaria for England and there was talk about who's going to be the first black player to represent England in a full international. We just talked generally about it, to be honest, no animosity, very much "if it's you, it's you, if it's me, it's me" kind of thing.

In the lockdown, someone contacted me about a lad called Jack Leslie who used to play for Plymouth in the 1920s, who was called up for England. When they realised, he was black they took him off the list and they didn't meet up with the rest of the players.

So, he would have been the first black player to play for England. That saddens me. Somebody who was that good, down in Plymouth and scoring goals as a centre-forward with a name like Jack Leslie you're thinking "there's no way he's black" but they found out he was and subsequently took him out of the squad and he never got to make his debut.

Fate has helped me to get to that point because 50 years before I thought about playing for England this lad Jack Leslie could have been the first black player. So, to have the honour I’m delighted with it, but it could have been done in the 20s, but for obvious reasons, it didn't happen.

How much harder do you think it is for a player like Raheem Sterling to perform when he's also viewed as a leading figure in football's fight against racism? A fight that rarely seems to make much progress. Does the fact that he's become a role model to so many people mount further pressure on his shoulders when there is already so much expectation to succeed?

I think Marcus Rashford's another one, in terms of what he did for the school meals for poorer kids, it's fantastic.

At the end of the day, he's paid to play football. What players do outside of the game is fantastic and they're welcome to continue to do it as long as their form doesn't diminish. At the end of the day, it's about playing football because if he doesn't play well people don't want to be involved with them anyway.

It's finding the balance between what you do on the field and what you do off it. You're always going to be looked at as a superstar as long as you're performing on the field. If you're NOT performing on the field, your credibility will diminish.

Raheem has got that nice balance, I think. Marcus probably went the other way, his form dipped for Manchester United. Whether it was down to off-the-field activities, I don't know.

Raheem seems to have the better balance between the two, potentially down to the manager of the football club at the time, as Pep is really good at handling players.

How do you rate Nottingham Forest's chances of survival this season?

Brentford broke the mold because the three sides that come up invariably go down and Brentford managed to stay up because they started really well.

I think for Forest if they start well it'll be very important. Get as many points as you can in the earlier games. They've all got a break in November [for the World Cup] which will help them.

They can gather their thoughts because they'll have had a number of games prior to that and they can assess what they've done right/badly and go on from there. It's a unique season in many respects. Everyone will have a long break where they can assess what they need to do.

I'm hopefully that Forest have made the right decisions. They've bought a few players who have never played in the Premier League before but for the price you're paying for these players you've got to take a gamble every now and again.

The things Steve Cooper has done in the past have been excellent. His recruitment has been really good. He's brought in 12 and got rid of 21.

There's a big turnaround at that football club and people have got to bear that in mind. Don't assess them too early. Give them enough time to get their footing as it's the most difficult league in the world. If anyone's going to keep Nottingham Forrest up, I think Steve Cooper is the man.

What would be your tp 4 and botom 3 predictions for this season?

I think Man City will be there or thereabouts again, I think Liverpool will go close again and I think Arsenal and Tottenham will be there as well because of their recruitment.

Manchester United will still be developing, I think. They could potentially win a cup or something like that. Chelsea is still in a bit of a turmoil, but then, they could be good for a cup this year as well. I think my top four would still be: Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

In terms of the relegation candidates, Wolves haven't bought anybody and have lost a few. So, I think they'll struggle. I think they've lost a centre-forward as well through injury which is a big blow. Unless they do something in the transfer window over the next few weeks they've got left, they'll be down there.

The other two sides that came up, Fulham haven't really bought lots and Bournemouth haven't either. You definitely need a big squad in the Premier League as the games come thick and fast and the opposition is so good. So, I'm going to say those three to go down.

I think Nottingham Forest will just miss out. I think they'll do a Brentford, start off well and have a fight of their lives in the latter half of the season to get points in. I might be wrong, but we'll see.

If you could change any rule in football, what would it be and why?

I'm not a lover of VAR because I played in the 1970s. It's getting a bit better but when someone's toenails or earlobes are offside it makes me scream at the television.

So, for those reasons I'm going to say VAR because in my day what goes around comes around. You might not get it one afternoon but hopefully, over a season, it levels itself out. People say "well it never did" but I thought it did! I would go back to the old ways.

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