Colin Bell MBE
Where are they now?
- Born: Feb 26, 1946
- Birthplace: Hesleden
- Nationality: England, 48 games / 9 goals
- Height: 180 cm
- Position: Attacking midfielder
- Nickname: Nijinsky
Maine Road, Boxing Day 1977: The first half against Newcastle United ended 0-0. Paul Power was injured and had to throw in the towel. Colin Bell (31) is returning after being out with injury for more than two years. When the team entered the field the crowd erupted, some cried. “The King” had finally returned. The ovation was incredible and the best ever given to a football player. Ever since the infamous tackle by Martin Buchan the supporters had missed their icon. As Peter Swales put it; “You can never kid the supporters. They know great players. Bell was the best, no question.” The Manager; Tony Book described the event this way: “I sent the team out and followed them down the tunnel. Halfway down I stopped and listened to the roar. It was amazing. I recall the kids hanging over the tunnel and it began with them shouting; “It’s him, it’s him”, and from there it went around the ground.” City won 4-0 and started a 7 game string of victories, kick-starting their championship ambitions.
Colin Bell was signed from Bury in 1966 for £45,000 during City’s successful promotion season. Mercer and Allison were amazed by Bells ability and strengths with Mercer claiming Bell was: “the best player since Peter Doherty. He has got fantastic stamina, and this unusual combination of speed and stamina. He is best when he is given a free rein and coming from deep. He is a good tackler and covers every inch of the pitch.” Bell was regarded the best box-to-box player in England during his career, and even though he was shy as a person, and never really liked to stick his neck out in public, he was called up to represent England on 48 occasions. As Neil Young put it; “Belly wasn’t particularly confident off the pitch, but he was absolute class on it, he oozed quality – they couldn’t fail to pick him”.
His introduction to the team came at Lilleshall training camp where the team stayed for a couple of days during a break. The other members of the team could not believe how quiet and shy the newcomer was. Was this really the midfield dynamo everybody was talking about? While he was at sleep during the first night the other players introduced themselves by tying some sheets together and pulled Bell out into the corridor where he woke up alone the following morning. By that was the (un)officially baptized and ready to start his amazing career.
With City Bell went on to win the First Division, the FA Cup, the League Cup (twice) and the European Cup Winners Cup. He is one of the most merited City-players of all times, and with 490 games he is number 6 in the overall statistics of most performances for City. Even more incredible is that he with 152 goals is number 3 in the overall statistics of most goals scored for the Blues. Not bad for a midfielder!
Bell may have been a quiet assuming lad off the pitch but on it he commanded the total respect from his team mates and fellow professionals. He had an engine that ran smoother than a Rolls-Royce and was the beating heart of the team when it was flying. He was also a scorer of many great goals for City. Having a midfield player scoring 10-15 goals every season was something City missed for many years, and even in the new golden era it takes the combined efforts of Yaya Toure’s goals and James Milner’s stamina to copy the abilities of Colin Bell.
A serious knee injury in 1976 put a premature stop to his tremendous career. A challenge by Martin Buchan during the Manchester League Cup derby sidelined the midfielder for two years. With all his weight bearing on his right leg he dragged the ball inside of Buchan to let him go past at speed. Buchan caught Bells knee – bent it backwards, burst a couple of blood vessels, did the ligaments, did the cartilage, and that was it. Game over. Tony Book saw the injury from the sideline, and if Bell had continued in a straight line he would have been fine, instead he tried to get on the inside and was caught by the high boot. For many days nobody really understood the extent of the damage.
Bell worked harder than any player before him (or since) to get back into action, and on Boxing Day 1977 he returned to action as a substitute in the famous comeback game where Dennis Tueart scored a hat-trick. Two more seasons of struggle followed then in August 1979 he was forced to announce his retirement. A lot of fans firmly believed that the injury was intentional. Bell did not accept that view, and defended Buchan saying: “People ask me if the tackle was done on purpose. I dont believe it was and don’t believe things like that should happen in the game. No – it’s a mans game, you take the knocks. I’ve only got to be thankful that I was in my late twenties when picking up the injury.”
In 1990 he returned to Maine Road to assist with reserve and youth team coaching, a role he kept until Frank Clark was inserted as Manager at the club.
Even today the majority of supporters firmly believe that Colin Bell was the greatest City player off all time. He is a man remembered for many fine games, and for his remarkable stamina and determination. He was also England’s most capped City player for over 35 years only passed by Joe Hart. Without doubt he is a living legend.
11/2 2004: THE WEST Stand at City’s new stadium has been re-named the Colin Bell Stand after an internet poll to decide its new title. At first it seemed the poll result would not be considered by the club after half-wit United fans corrupted the poll but the joke was on them as the stand runs along the pitch, not at the end. Thankfully the club stuck with the clear fans’ choice, despite the intervention by mischievous reds, and the stand was unveiled at Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Birmingham.
5/10 2006: The book: “Colin Bell – Reluctant Hero: The Autobiography of a Manchester City and England Legend” by Ian Cheeseman came out. The book portrays a quiet, modest North East lad who went to the top of his game, only to have his career ended by injury far too early. The book tells it all, home and pitch life, up to the present day.
19/7 2014: Colin Bell was voted the greatest Manchester City player of all times by the readers of the Manchester Evening News (MEN). He collected a impressive 45% of the votes from thousands of fans. David Silva came second, with Vincent Kompany, Bert Trautmann and Francis Lee making it into the top 5.