Willie Anderson (footballer)

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Willie Anderson
Personal information
Full name William John Anderson[1]
Date of birth (1947-01-24) 24 January 1947 (age 72)
Place of birth Liverpool, England
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)[2]
Playing position Winger
Youth career
1962–1964 Manchester United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1967 Manchester United 9 (0)
1967–1973 Aston Villa 231 (36)
1973–1977 Cardiff City 126 (12)
1975Portland Timbers (loan) 17 (3)
1977–1982 Portland Timbers 160 (13)
1979–1980 Wichita Wings (indoor) 18 (15)
1980–1982 Portland Timbers (indoor) 31 (17)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William John Anderson (born 24 January 1947) is an English former professional footballer who played as a winger. During his career, he made over 350 appearances in the Football League.[3]

He began his career as a youth player with Manchester United, making his professional debut at the age of sixteen. However, he struggled to establish himself in the first team, largely due to the emergence of George Best in his position, and was sold to Aston Villa in January 1967 for £20,000. Relegated in his first season, he later helped the club win promotion back to the First Division and made over 200 appearances in all competitions before joining Cardiff City in 1973.

With Cardiff, he won promoted to the Second Division and reached three Welsh Cup finals, winning two in 1973 and 1974. During the English summer break in 1975, he joined Portland Timbers in the North American Soccer League on loan and enjoyed the experience enough to return to the club on a permanent basis in 1977. He went on to make over 150 appearances for the side, spending a season on loan with indoor side Wichita Wings, before retiring.

Early life[edit]

Anderson was born in Liverpool and was raised as a Protestant. His father worked as a porter in a fruit and vegetable market.[4]


Manchester United[edit]

Anderson was a boyhood fan of his hometown side Liverpool and had dreamt of playing for the club.[4] He had regularly trained under Alan A'Court for his school side and had been set to join the club before impressing scouts from Manchester United while representing Lancashire schoolboys. After being approached by representatives from United, he decided to join the club after fearing that Liverpool would not sign him,[4] joining the club's youth system at the age of fifteen.[5] In later years, Anderson would meet Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who confirmed that the club would have made an approach to sign him if he had rejected United.[4]

One of a group of around twenty players in his age group, he was one of just three who went on to sign professional contracts with United at the age of eighteen, alongside George Best and John Fitzpatrick. Anderson later commented on the jump in quality after joining the club, stating "I was the best soccer player around where I grew up, but when I joined United they were all as good as me and most of them better. That was something of a shock to my system."[5] Anderson had been considered one of the brightest prospects at the club but, the arrival of Best, led to him falling down the pecking order.[6]

Of the three youth players, Anderson was the youngest to make his debut,[5] starting in the First Division at the age of sixteen in a 5–1 victory over Burnley on 28 December 1963. He made two further appearances during the 1963–64 season, defeats to Southampton and West Ham United in the FA Cup third round and the league respectively.[7] He later became the first ever substitute used by the club when he replaced Best against Liverpool in the 1965 FA Charity Shield at the start of the following season.[8] However, he struggled to break into the first team and gradually fell out of favour, making five appearances during the 1965–66 season followed by a single appearance the year after, as a substitute during a 2–2 draw with Liverpool in his final match for the club.[4] Commenting on his lack of playing time, he stated "I got a couple of runs at it, but I soon realised I was never going to make it there."[4]

Aston Villa[edit]

Although manager Matt Busby offered Anderson the chance to remain with the club, he decided to leave in order to find first team football and was allowed to join Aston Villa for a fee of £20,000 in January 1967 at the age of nineteen.[9] Anderson later reminisced over his departure, stating "They always moved you on when you got to nineteen or twenty, because there were so many talented young kids coming up behind you."[4]

In his first season with Villa, the club suffered relegation to the Second Division.[4] The club later suffered another relegation, falling into the Third Division in 1971. He helped the side win promotion during the 1971–72 season, scoring a career high fifteen goals in all competitions with eight coming from penalties, helping him gain a reputation as a penalty taker specialist.[10]

Cardiff City[edit]

Having been virtually ever present for Villa over six years,[10] he was allowed to join Cardiff City. Cardiff had failed in attempt to sign him in 1971 but finally managed to agree a deal for him in February 1973 worth £60,000. He made his debut on 27 February 1973 in a 3–0 defeat to Swindon Town and played in all fourteen of the club's remaining league fixtures in the 1972–73 season as they narrowly avoided relegation to the Third Division. He also played in both legs of the Welsh Cup final against Bangor City, as Cardiff won 5–1 on aggregate.[11]

The following season, he scored his first goal for the club, during a 4–2 defeat to Oxford United. After sharing playing duties with Peter King and Tony Villars during the first half of the 1973–74 season, before becoming first choice and missing only one league match after December. He also helped the side to a second consecutive Welsh Cup victory after defeating Stourbridge 2–0 on aggregate.[11][12]

In his third season, Anderson enjoyed his most prominent role in the side, appearing in 37 league matches as the club suffered relegation to the Third Division after finishing in 21st place. Despite their relegation, Anderson reached his third consecutive Welsh Cup final, but suffered a 5–1 aggregate defeat to Wrexham.[11]

Portland Timbers[edit]

In 1975, he decided to leave Cardiff to sign for the Portland Timbers in the North American Soccer League on loan.[13] Anderson became aware of the side after meeting with former teammate Brian Godfrey who had recently joined Portland. The team was managed by Anderson's former Aston Villa boss Vic Crowe and, after learning of Anderson's interest, Crowe contacted the winger who agreed to join despite not knowing the team's full name or where in the country they were based.[14][15] He arrived after the start of the season after Cardiff reached the final of the Welsh Cup and, despite suffering jetlag after travelling to America two days earlier, he made his debut in a 2–0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps. In his following match, he scored his first goal for the club, netting the game winning goal in overtime against Rochester Lancers.[14] The club were sponsored by an American alcohol company named Blitz who included a 24 pack of beer each week with each player's wages.[15] Forming an effective wing partnership with Jimmy Kelly, he helped the team achieve a 16–6 record, winning the Western Conference before suffering defeat to Tampa Bay Rowdies in the pre-season final.[15]

He returned to Cardiff after his four month loan spell ended, arriving late after staying in to compete in the playoffs. Although Anderson wished to return to Portland, Cardiff were disgruntled by his late return and refused to release him from his contract. In 1977, Portland returned to sign Anderson on a permanent basis.[15] He remained with the Timbers through the 1982 season, with one indoor season on loan with the Wichita Wings of the Major Indoor Soccer League.[2] He left the club in 1982 when it was forced to fold.[15] At the time of his departure, he was the club's all time record appearance holder and second in its all time assist rankings, falling two short of former teammate John Bain.[14]

Later life[edit]

Following his retirement from playing, Anderson worked as an advertising salesman for classical music radio station KKSN. He later worked as an accounts executive at another radio station, KQAC, and coached the girl's varsity team at Riverdale High School.[15] Anderson later became a sports analyst for KPTV, covering Portland Timbers matches.[16]

Career statistics[edit]

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League Domestic Cup League Cup Other[a] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Manchester United 1963–64[8] First Division 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
1964–65[8] First Division 6 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 9 0
1965–66[8] First Division 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Manchester United total 9 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 13 0
Aston Villa 1966–67[17] First Division 17 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 18 5
1967–68[17] Second Division 42 5 2 1 1 0 0 0 45 6
1968–69[17] Second Division 38 6 4 0 1 0 0 0 43 6
1969–70[17] Second Division 38 5 2 0 2 0 0 0 42 5
1970–71[17] Third Division 42 4 1 0 10 2 0 0 53 6
1971–72[17] Third Division 40 10 1 0 7 5 0 0 49 15
1972–73[17] Second Division 14 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 17 1
Aston Villa total 231 36 12 1 23 7 0 0 266 44
Cardiff City 1972–73[11] Second Division 15 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 18 0
1973–74[11] Second Division 29 3 1 0 1 0 1 0 32 3
1974–75[11] Second Division 37 3 1 0 1 0 7 0 46 3
1975–76[11] Third Division 29 6 4 0 0 0 2 0 35 6
1976–77[11] Second Division 16 0 0 0 3 0 5 0 24 0
Cardiff City total 126 12 6 0 5 0 18 0 155 12
Portland Timbers (loan) 1975[2] NASL 17 3 17 3
Portland Timbers 1977[2] NASL 19 1 19 1
1978[2] NASL 26 3 26 3
1979[2] NASL 25 0 25 0
1980[2] NASL 24 2 24 2
1981[2] NASL 27 2 27 2
1982[2] NASL 21 2 21 2
Portland Timbers total 159 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 159 13
Total 525 61 20 1 28 7 20 0 593 69
  1. ^ Includes appearances in other competitive competitions, including the FA Charity Shield, Welsh Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup


Manchester United[8]

Aston Villa[10]

Cardiff City[12]

Portland Timbers[13]


  1. ^ "Willie Anderson". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Willie Anderson". NASL. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Willie Anderson". Post War English & Scottish Football League A–Z Player's Database. Neil Brown. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Shindler, Colin (2012). George Best and 21 others. Hachette UK. ISBN 9780755311545.
  5. ^ a b c Anderson, Willie (22 February 2018). "So you want to be a pro". willie12.com. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  6. ^ Redknapp, Harry (2015). A Man Walks on to a Pitch: Stories from a Life in Football. Random House. ISBN 009195553X.
  7. ^ "Willie Anderson". 11v11.com. AFS Enterprises. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Willie Anderson". MUFCInfo. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Willie Anderson". Aston Villa Player Database. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Kendrick, Mat (6 October 2017). "These are the Aston Villa wingers you loved watching". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Shepherd, Richard (2002). The Definitive: Cardiff City F.C. Nottingham: SoccerData Publications. p. 72–76. ISBN 1-899-46817-X.
  12. ^ a b Hayes, Dean (2006). The Who's Who of Cardiff City. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 14. ISBN 1-85983-462-0.
  13. ^ a b "Rowdies ax Portland 2–0". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Froh, Tim (18 September 2015). "Willie Anderson's summer sojourn with Timbers turns into long-term love of Portland". Portland Timbers. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Goldberg, Jamie (12 February 2015). "Willie Anderson on the Portland fan base, the impact of 1975 and more: Timbers at 40". Oregon Live. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  16. ^ Goldberg, Jamie (20 April 2017). "Portland Thorns fans take issue with KPTV reporter's 'sexist' questions in televised interview". Oregon Live. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Lerwill, John. "Willie Anderson". lerwill-life.org.uk. Retrieved 9 September 2018.