Born in Belfast, Anderson began his playing career at Portadown before signing for Manchester United in October 1972. After only appearing in 19 League games for the club he moved to Swindon Town and made his début on 5 November 1974. He scored the only goal in this game, a 1–0 win against Chesterfield. He was the club's top scorer for the 1975–76 season with 15 goals.
He moved to Peterborough in December 1977 before returning to Northern Ireland to play for Linfield.
A Northern Ireland international, he made his début against Cyprus in 1973 and went on to achieve 22 caps, 12 whilst a Swindon player.
Anderson managed Linfield from 1992 to 1997, winning a number of honours including two Irish Football League titles and two Irish Cups. Anderson left the club in 1997 to take up the post as Director of Football at Newry Town. The club were a division below Linfield but had a reputation for spending big money, by Irish League standards, and the club won promotion under Anderson's direction. He subsequently managed Ards, leading the club to promotion in 2001. He went on to manage Dundalk.