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Colin Bell

Colin Bell MBE (26 February 1946), is a former English football player who was born in Hesleden, County Durham, England. Nicknamed "The King of the Kippax" (after Manchester City's Kippax terraced stand renowned for its singing), and Nijinsky after the famous racehorse, Bell is widely described as Manchester City's greatest ever player. He was part of the famous trio of the late 1960s and early 1970s alongside Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee.

Early career

He began his career at Bury captaining the team at a young age. In 1966 he moved to Manchester City and helped the team earn promotion to the First Division that same year. When trying to sign him for Manchester City, Assistant Manager Malcolm Allison misled other clubs interested in Bell by claiming the player "can't head it, can't pass it, he's hopeless". Allison's stratagem succeeded as Bell signed for City. In 1968 he helped City win their second League Championship. In the same year Bell also won his first England cap against Sweden, where he was instrumental in a 3-1 victory - the last time England defeated Sweden. In 1969 Manchester City won the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Leicester City thanks to a goal by Neil Young. That same year Bell distinguished himself in the national team, scoring England's only goal in a 1-0 victory over The Netherlands and also scoring against Brazil. In 1970, Manchester City and Bell won two trophies, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup.

1970 World Cup

Personal information
Full name Colin Bell
Date of birth February 26, 1946 (1946-02-26) (age 61)
Place of birth    Hesleden, England
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club retired
Youth clubs
  Horden Colliery Welfare Juniors
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
1963-1966
1966-1979
 
Bury
Manchester City
82 (25)
394(117)   
National team2
1968-1975 England 48 (9)
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only and
correct as of 2005.
2 National team caps and goals correct
as of 2005.
* Appearances (Goals)

In 1970 Bell, along with Manchester City team mate Francis Lee, earned a place in the England squad for the World Cup in Mexico. To help the players acclimatize to the heat of Mexico, the team staged an inter-squad mini-olympics which saw Bell win every event. During the tournament, Bell saw action in the quarter final when he replaced Bobby Charlton in the 2-3 defeat to West Germany. The substitution was deemed by some to be the negative (for England) turning point of the game. However, Charlton has argued that it was not the substitution which changed the game, and pointed out that West Germany scored their first goal before Charlton was substituted, and also that the West German team at the time had a habit of coming back in games indicates that it is wrong to blame the substitutions for England's defeat.

Later career

In total Bell won 48 caps and scored nine goals for England. He also captained the national team for a game in 1972, a defeat to Northern Ireland. Despite these successes, Bell was upset that he was unable to better make his name on the world stage when England failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1974, a failure which also forced England Alf Ramsey's departure. Bell's former manager at Manchester City Joe Mercer took over as caretaker of the national side and chose Bell to play in every game that he was in charge.

Bell is regarded as one of England's finest ever midfield players, being described by one commentator as 'the most finished article in the modern game'. His finest performances for his country included scoring twice in the 7-0 demolition of Austria, and also helping England defeat World Champions West Germany 2-0 in 1975 at the one hundredth international game played at Wembley Stadium. The team that beat the West Germans in that game consisted of a forward line-up of Mick Channon, Kevin Keegan, Malcolm Macdonald, Alan Hudson and Alan Ball as well as Bell. Channon has commented that he did not understand why then manager Don Revie did not continue with this line-up which he considered was as good as any forward line England had had since 1970.

Injury and Retirement

Tragically, in 1975 at the age of 29 Bell severely injured his right knee against Manchester United in a challenge from Martin Buchan during a League Cup match at Old Trafford. He attempted a return in 1977, but called time on a magical career in 1979 having never recaptured the form which guided Manchester City to the 1968 League Title, 1969 FA Cup, 1970 League Cup and 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup and a second League Cup victory in 1976, after collecting a runners up medal in the same competition two years earlier. Then Manchester City Chairman Peter Swales described Bell as the 'finest tuned athlete' and 'irreplaceable'. This latter sentiment turned out to be true as Malcolm Allison who managed Manchester City again in the late 1970s was not able to find a trio of talented players the calibre of Bell, Summerbee and Lee like he had done in the past with Joe Mercer. In 1980 Bell tried to resurrect his career with NASL side San Jose Earthquakes. The move didn't succeed as he only played 5 games for the club.

After football

Bell later continued his service with the Maine Road club by working with the youth team, but left before returning during the 1990s as an ambassador for the club. In 2004 the West Stand at Manchester City's new stadium, The City of Manchester Stadium, was renamed "The Colin Bell Stand" in honour of their greatest ever player. This is a unique honour, as the East, North and South stands all remain nameless, although one of the roads leading to the stadium is called "Joe Mercer Way" in honour of Manchester City's most successful and greatest ever manager. Bell was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game. He was also awarded an MBE that year in recognition of his work for charity. He also released his autobiography entitled 'Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero' in 2005. In the book, Bell reveals how his mother died of bowel cancer when he was too young to remember. She was only 39. Colin Bell's son, a surgeon, gave the book to his boss who, when reading about Colin's mother, suggested that the football legend be examined as the disease may be hereditary. Colin was examined and it was discovered that he had early symptoms of the disease. He has subsequently been treated.

Legacy

England and Manchester City fans alike have fond memories of the football talents of Colin Bell, and many other great players have highlighted Bell as one of the best. In his foreword to Colin Bell's autobiography, Bobby Charlton has stated that 'Colin Bell was unquestionably a great player'.[1] Alan Mullery, another of Bell's former England team mates stated that Bell would 'still be a star in today's football' and 'would fit into any team'.[2] Yet another England team mate of Bell's, Kevin Keegan, has stated that Bell 'had it all'.[3] Former England legend Tom Finney stated that 'Colin Bell was as good as anything I've ever seen'.[4]

References

Bell, Colin; Cheeseman, Ian Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero, Mainstream Publishing

Notes

  1. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. 
  2. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. 
  3. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. 
  4. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. 

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