Colin Benson selects one of the players from this season's Arsenal A-Z feature to talk about their time with the Club.

There have been so many great names that have graced the famous shirt and played their part in making Arsenal a club that is renowned throughout the world it would take a couple of volumes to do them all justice.

Among the first 13 players featured in The Arsenal A-Z are such magnificent servants such as Tony Adams and George Armstrong, and in the first of Colin Benson's  new series, he chats to VIV ANDERSON about his life and times as an Arsenal hero.

In the old days Eddie Hapgood and George Male formed one of the best full-back partnerships ever to grace the colours of Arsenal and England. At a time when the primary responsibility of defenders was to defend and do little else, they set new standards as the first footballing full-backs. The game has evolved further since then, and by the 1960s the number twos and threes were expected to add even more attacking dimensions to their play, and few did it better for club and country than Viv Anderson.

Viv was already a star when Don Howe signed him, having won all the domestic honours as well as the European Cup with Nottingham Forest. Nonetheless, coming to Highbury was a new awakening as his first memories of becoming an Arsenal player reveal.

Recalls Viv: "What comes to mind immediately was me and big Pat (Jennings) because he was always a hero of mine. Obviously I arrived knowing my friend Tony Woodcock was there as well as Paul Mariner, Kenny Sansom and Graham Rix who I knew from playing with them for England. But meeting big Pat was a great honour because we always talked of him as God.

"Although he was coming to the end of his career he was still a big star and played some games in my first season at the Club.

"I had grown up with Tony Woodcock, we were apprentices together at Forest, so I knew Tony from old and we are still together now in business, although I don't have a hairstyle like his! I keep telling him to get it cut but I think he is trying to recapture his youth so I'll leave him to it. I think it's called the male menopause!"

Viv, of course, had been schooled by Brian Clough, whose methods were far from conventional so it must have been somewhat of a culture shock when he got down to work under Don Howe.

"It was a rude awakening," laughs Viv. "Coming from Forest, where training was easy-oozy and you did virtually what you wanted really, into the regime at Arsenal where on my first day we had to do a five-mile run was a shock.

"I wasn't used to stuff like that and remember I was that slow I just beat Don to the line and he was 50-odd at that stage and had set off some 20-minutes behind me after all the players had gone. So my first impressions were - 'it is going to be hard work here'."

Viv also had to take in a different approach to the tactical planning side of the game and reveals:

"At Forest it was all about playing it off the cuff. Cloughie didn't go in for dossiers on the players and things like that but at Arsenal we had three pages on each player analysing how they played and what systems they played and everything else. So it was a complete role reversal really for me to what I had been used to for 10 years at Forest.

"I would say it was a lot more professional because Arsenal had much more tradition and history to live up to. When you came here everybody talked about the 'double' winning team and always tried to compare you to the 'double' winning team so it was always difficult.

"At Forest they had nothing to compare us with but coming to a big club like Arsenal there was always references to the great players of the past, the John Radfords the Chippy Bradys who had set the standards you had to aspire to.

"I had won everything with Forest but that still didn't compare to playing for Arsenal where traditions have been passed down through the ages and there are so many past triumphs to live up to. At Forest they had nothing to compare us to, for we broke the mould.

"But at a big club like Arsenal and at Manchester United where I eventually went, you are always held up for comparison to the great players in whose shadow you play and you have to try and break those barriers down."

His first game for Arsenal was a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Highbury on August 25, 1984, but Viv doesn't remember the game at all.

"My memory is useless for stuff like that," he says as was proved by his reaction of startled surprise to my telling him his first goal came in his fourth appearance, a 2-0 home win over Newcastle United.

"Did it?" he exclaimed somewhat excitedly. "Did it now; I don't remember that either.

"I'm sure I was thrilled for just to play for a big club where the expectations are so high is great. Coming from a provincial team where the expectations aren't that great was stimulating. Your level of performance has to be a lot greater. At Forest you could maybe get away with three or four games not at your best and remain in the team every week. At Arsenal you have to be at your peak every week because if you are not good in one game someone will take your place.

"My first games at Highbury of course were for Forest and the first thing I remember was the dressing rooms and the heated floor. We had never experienced anything like that and thought 'flipping heck this is great this is'. The pitch was just another football pitch to me and the surroundings just another ground. It is something as small as the heated floors that left an impression."

Once an Arsenal player, the highlight of Viv's career was winning the Littlewoods Cup and scoring against Spurs on route. However, the memories he cherishes most dearly are those of the players around him. He says: "Kenny Sansom, Paul Mariner, Charlie Nicholas were all larger than life characters and still are. Brian Talbot was there, Pat and Tony as I've mentioned, and David O'Leary; they were a great bunch of characters and it was an amusing dressing room to say the least.

"I remember during training at Highbury one day somebody from one of the houses across the road complained about Charlie Nicholas and Paul Mariner shouting. That's how loud they were and how our dressing room was at any given time - Paul's Bolton lilt booming out at you. They were like peas in a pod those two, could never shut up."

October 5, 1985 was a red letter day for Viv as he scored in a thrilling 3-2 home win over Aston Villa, or was it? Tony Woodcock, Chris Whyte and Viv Anderson were the Arsenal scorers that Saturday afternoon but alas our hero can't remember it at all.

"You can imagine Chris Whyte scoring and me scoring in the same game is a rarity to say the least," he reflects, "but what I remember of it is zilch. But I know Villa's new manager well having played alongside Martin for seven-years at Forest and I wish him well. But I hope the result today is very similar to that of 21-years ago."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
17 Aug 2006