Former Arsenal defender Viv Anderson has revealed how former boss Brian Clough taught him to stand up to racists.
Speaking to another ex-Arsenal player Ian Wright for ITV4 documentary Out Of Their Skin, Anderson recalled how opposition fans in the 1970s used to throw bananas and other fruit at him.
“I remember going to Carlisle and I’m sat down within five minutes,” Anderson began. “And he [Clough] said: ‘I thought I told you to warm up’. I said: ‘Well, they are throwing apples and pears and bananas at me’.
“He said: ‘Go back out there and get me two pears and a banana.’ In the dressing room, he said: ‘I did that for a reason, you know – because if you let them dictate to you, you aren’t going to make a good career and I think you can play.”
You’d hope that today, the clubs and officials involved would be able to deal with this kind of abuse more directly. The referees have the power to have warnings issued over the loudspeakers and to call matches off, if necessary. That’s a much better solution than forcing the abused player to struggle through.
However, back in the 1970s players like Anderson didn’t have that protection. They had to play on or give up. From that point of view, learning to bravely stand up to the racists was the best option, to pave the way for more non-white players to get involved in the game and get to where we are today.
It’s thanks to players like Anderson that we’re even having these discussions about race, though that’s not to say there isn’t still work to do. Hopefully, by continuing to talk about the issue, we’ll get there eventually.