For Manchester City, Colin Bell is known as one of the best players ever to play and one of his generation’s finest English midfielders. Dubbed by fans “The King of the Kippax” and compared to a Derby winner by colorful coach Malcolm Allison because of his remarkable stamina, in the late 1960s and 70s Bell was at the heart of the popular City squad.
In 13 seasons, he played 492 games for the club, scoring 152 goals. He also gave England 48 caps, scoring nine times. Had injuries not marred his career, those figures may have been much higher. Bell hailed from the Northeast and was born on February 26, 1946, in Hesleden, County Durham. After his mother died when he was a child, he was raised by his dad and other family members. Before moving to Second Division side Bury as a teenager after unsuccessfully auditioning for Newcastle, Sunderland and Arsenal, Bell was a youth player at Horden Colliery Welfare. At Gigg Street, he quickly established himself and captained the Shakers, attracting attention from larger clubs. It is said that Allison watched him but bemoaned his willingness to deceive them within the earshot of other scouts before the fee could be paid by City. According to Allison, who went on to coach and manage City, they finally signed him in 1966 for £ 45,000 – “an unbelievable bargain,” according to Allison. Colin Bell was a player for 13 years at Manchester City (PA). The full midfield package was provided by Bell. In reference to the famous racehorse, Allison, who described him as “world class,” was the first to name him “Nijinsky” In 1966, he scored on his debut to help promote City, and when the team won the First Division title against Manchester United two years later, he was one of the outstanding players. The success of the FA Cup followed in 1969, and in 1970, two more trophies were won, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. He was three times the club’s highest scorer. He made his England debut in 1968 and was part of the 1970 World Cup squad in Mexico. For England, Colin Bell created 48 caps for (PA). He was so fit that he won all the disciplines in a “mini-Olympics” arranged to help the team acclimatize to the sun. In practice, however, he was used sparingly and accidentally went down in history when he was replaced in the quarterfinal against West Germany by Bobby Charlton. In England’s midfield, he was assigned as a long-term substitute for Charlton, but a knee injury ended his career at the age of 29 after the disappointment of missing out on qualifying for the 1974 World Cup. Bell, who was in his prime, was out of action in November 1975 for two years after injuring himself in a tackle on Martin Buchan of United. He never blamed Buchan for what he saw as an accident, but his return was ineffective and he retired in August 1979. He briefly attempted to restart his career with the San Jose Earthquakes in 1980, but it only lasted five games. The Colin Bell Stand at the Etihad Stadium (Nick Potts/PA). As the title of his 2005 autobiography, Reluctant Hero, indicates, he was uncomfortable in the spotlight and protective of his privacy. It took his family and friends a lot of coaxing for him to write the novel, but it saved his life. It was read by football-loving surgeon Jim Hill, who called him and recommended he get screened after discovering that Bell’s mother had died of colon cancer. Bell, whose name lives on the Colin Bell Stand named after him at Etihad Stadium, died after a short illness on Tuesday at the age of 74. His wife, Marie, children Jon and Dawn, and grandchildren Luke, Mark, Isla and Jack survived.