Colin Bell

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Colin Bell
Colin Bell 1969.jpg
Bell in 1969
Personal information
Date of birth

(1946-02-26)26 February 1946jsdf jkdf[ok3 ib`20h5]

jv-n den]], England[1]
Date of death 5 January 2021(2021-01-05) (aged 74)
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[2]
Position(s) Midfielder
Youth career
Horden Colliery Welfare Juniors
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1966 Bury 82 (25)
1970–1974 The Football League XI 4 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Colin Bell MBE (26 February 1946 – 5 January 2021) was an English professional footballer who played as a midfielder. Best known for his thirteen-year spell at Manchester City, he was regarded as one of the club's finest-ever players,[3] and was part of the Bell–LeeSummerbee trio in the late 1960s and 1970s.[4][5] Bell made forty-eight appearances for the England national football team; he was an unused squad member at UEFA Euro 1968 and played in three matches at the 1970 FIFA World Cup.

During his playing career, he was nicknamed "The King of the Kippax" (after Maine Road's Kippax Street terraced stand renowned for its singing) and Nijinsky (after the famous racehorse, due to his renowned stamina).[6] In 2004, the West Stand of City of Manchester Stadium was later named in his honour.

Club career[edit]

Bell began his career at Bury where he was swiftly made club captain. In total, Bell made eighty-two league appearances for Bury (in three seasons) and scored twenty-five goals. In 1966, he moved to Manchester City (who were managed by Joe Mercer) for £45,000. When trying to sign him for Manchester City, assistant manager Malcolm Allison misled other clubs interested in Bell (including Leicester City[7]) by claiming that the player was "hopeless".[8] Allison's stratagem succeeded as Bell ultimately signed for City. In the 1965–66 season, Bell helped City finish first in the Second Division, earning the team promotion to the First Division. Bell scored the only goal (via a header) in a 1–0 victory against Rotherham which ensured promotion.[9] In the 1966–67 season, Bell was City's top scorer with fourteen league goals in all competitions, and the team finished in fifteenth place in the First Division. Bell scored a hat trick in a 3–1 victory against Stoke City in April that season.[10]

In the 1967–68 season, Bell helped City win their second League Championship (they had won their first in 1937). Bell scored fourteen league goals that season. One of his goals came in the famous 4–1 victory against Tottenham Hotspur, at Maine Road, which was dubbed the "Ballet on Ice" due to the snowy conditions in which the game was played.[11] Mike Summerbee, Tony Coleman and Neil Young scored City's other goals while Jimmy Greaves scored the goal for Spurs. After the game, legendary centre forward Dixie Dean informed Allison that the City team which had beaten Spurs was "the most brilliant side I have ever seen".[12] In the penultimate game of the season, Bell scored twice in a 3–1 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. In the game, Lee and Summerbee stretched the Spurs defence allowing Bell a clear run at a slowing Dave Mackay which overwhelmed the Scotsman.[13] In the final game of the season, City defeated Newcastle United 4–3, to clinch the title. Bell assisted Lee with the "best pass of the afternoon" to score City's fourth goal.[14]

In the 1968–69 season, Bell again scored fourteen league goals as City finished thirteenth in the First Division. Manchester City won the FA Cup that season with a 1–0 victory over Leicester City in the final thanks to a goal by Neil Young.[15] In the 1969–70 season, Bell scored eleven league goals for City, who finished tenth in the league. Manchester City and Bell won two trophies, in 1970, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup. City defeated West Bromwich Albion 2–1 in the 1970 Football League Cup Final, in which Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe scored City's goals.[16] City defeated Górnik Zabrze 2–1 in the 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup Final with goals from Young and Francis Lee.[17]

In the 1970–71 season, Bell scored thirteen goals for City who finished eleventh in the First Division. In the following season, City challenged for the title but ultimately lost out to Derby County and finished fourth in the league. Bell scored thirteen goals that season. In the 1972–73 season, City finished eleventh in the league. In the 1973–74 season, Bell helped City reach the 1974 Football League Cup Final, in which he scored in a 2–1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.[18] Bell played for City in a 1–0 victory against Manchester United in the final game of the season. Denis Law scored the only goal in the game which confirmed United's relegation from the First Division.[19] In the 1974–75 season, Bell scored fifteen league goals. He was named in the 1974–75 Football League First Division PFA Team of the Year. In November 1975, at the age of 29, Bell severely injured his right knee against Manchester United in a challenge with Martin Buchan during a League Cup match at Maine Road.[20] City went on to win the League Cup that season, defeating Newcastle 2–1 in the 1976 Football League Cup Final. Bell's prolonged absence due to his injury was a blow to Don Revie, who quit as manager of England in 1977.[21][22] Bell returned to action in a 4–0 victory against Newcastle on Boxing Day in 1977. His introduction to the game, at half time, was greeted with rapturous applause.[23] However, Bell's return to City was fleeting as he left City in the 1978–79 season; Malcolm Allison, who returned to City for a second spell as manager in 1979, convinced Bell that it was time to go. The then-chairman Peter Swales described Bell as the "finest tuned athlete" and "irreplaceable".[24] This latter sentiment turned out to be true as Allison was not able to find a trio of talented players of the calibre of Bell, Summerbee and Lee as he had done in the past with Joe Mercer. Bell tried to resurrect his career in 1980 with NASL side San Jose Earthquakes, where he joined former Manchester United player George Best.[25] However, Bell ended up playing only five games for the club before retiring from football altogether.[26]

International career[edit]

Bell played twice for the England Under 23 team in 1968. He played in a 2–1 victory against Scotland Under 23 team in which Martin Chivers and Rodney Marsh scored for the England Under 23 team.[27] He also played in a 4–0 victory against the Hungary Under 23 team. Bell scored one of the four goals. The other scorers were Chivers, Marsh and Joe Royle.[28] In the same year, Bell won his first cap for the senior England team against Sweden, where he helped inspire goals from Martin Peters, Bobby Charlton and Roger Hunt in a 3–1 victory.[29] Bell was part of the England squad for UEFA Euro 1968, which was ultimately won by Italy. England finished third in the tournament after defeating the Soviet Union in the third-place match.[30]

In 1969, Bell distinguished himself in the national team, scoring England's only goal in a 1–0 victory over the Netherlands in an "all-action display".[31] Bell was part of the England squad which toured South America in 1969. Brian Glanville contended that both Bell and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Alan Mullery excelled on the tour.[32] Bell gave England an early lead in a game against Brazil, but late goals from Tostão and Jairzinho gave Brazil a 2–1 victory.[33][34] Bell also played in a 2–1 victory against Uruguay on the tour.[35] He also helped England to win the 1968–69 British Home Championship. He played in a 2–1 victory against Wales[36] in which Bobby Charlton and Francis Lee scored England's goals.

1970 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Bell played in the 1969–70 British Home Championship, which was shared between England, Wales and Scotland. He replaced Keith Newton in a 3–1 victory against Northern Ireland.[37] He was subsequently included in the England squad for the World Cup in Mexico. Glanville contends that Bell's excellence was threatening Bobby Charlton's place in the England team.[38] England were seeking to replicate their performance in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, which they had won. Bell's City teammate Francis Lee was also included in the squad. In order to help the players acclimatise to the heat of Mexico, the team staged an intra-squad mini-olympics which saw Bell win every event.[39] In the group stage, Bell came on as a substitute in a 1–0 defeat to Brazil, in which Jairzinho scored the only goal. Bell "added spark to the England offence in the latter stages" of the game.[40] Bell started in the next game, a 1–0 victory against Czechoslovakia, in which Allan Clarke scored the only goal.[41]

In the quarter-final, Bell replaced Bobby Charlton in a 2–3 defeat to West Germany.[42] England had taken a 2–0 lead in the game through goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters. Franz Beckenbauer had pulled a goal back for West Germany before the substitution. Following the substitution of Charlton and another substitution (Peters was replaced by Norman Hunter), the Germans scored twice (Uwe Seeler and Gerd Müller were the scorers). Bell was involved in creating chances for England following his introduction. At one point in the game, Bell sent in a low cross to the near post, but Hurst headed the ball just wide of the far one.[43][44] At another point in the game, Bell beat Beckenbauer in the German penalty area and was then knocked down by the German player, but England were not awarded a penalty.[45] The substitution was deemed by some to be the negative (for England) turning point of the game. However, West Germany scored their first goal before Charlton was substituted,[46] and the fact that the German team at the time had a habit of coming back in games indicates that it was questionable to blame the substitutions for England's defeat. West Germany were subsequently defeated by Italy 4–3 in the semi final. Italy were eventually defeated 4–1 by Brazil in the final. Charlton asserted that the absence of Gordon Banks (he was replaced in goal by Peter Bonetti) through sickness was the most important factor in England's defeat to the West Germans.[47] Similarly, Glanville argued that "had Banks played, England would surely have won".[48] Geoff Hurst stated that "to suggest that Colin Bell's inclusion weakened the team is patently unfair".[49] Alan Ball described the substitutions as wise given the need to rest players for the prospective semi-final.[50]

Failure to qualify after 1970[edit]

Bell also played for England in the 1971–72 British Home Championship which was shared with Scotland. Bell scored in a 3–0 victory against Wales (with Rodney Marsh and Emlyn Hughes scoring England's other goals).[51] Bell also captained England (in Bobby Moore's absence) in a 1–0 defeat to Northern Ireland.[52] In addition, Bell played in a 1–0 victory over Scotland (in which Alan Ball scored the winner).[53] Bell also played in a 3–1[54] defeat and a 0–0 draw[55] with West Germany in 1972, which meant that England failed to qualify for UEFA Euro 1972. In the first game, Sepp Maier had spilled a shot from Bell which Lee tapped in to equalise Uli Hoeneß' first half goal.[56] However, late goals from Günter Netzer and Gerd Müller secured victory for the West Germans. In November 1972, Bell "cashed in on clever approach work by Alan Ball to score the decisive winning goal" in a 1–0 victory over Wales in a World Cup qualification game at Ninian Park.[57] Bell played in the other qualification game against Wales at Wembley, which ended 1–1.[58] Bell was described as having 'excellent technique' and rated as the 'best England player' in the game as he 'was always trying to find a way through the packed Welsh defence'.[59]

In 1973, Bell scored in the 7–0 demolition of Austria. In the game Bell, along with Martin Peters and Tony Currie "dictated the pace and pattern of the match from midfield".[60] Bell also helped England to win the 1972–73 British Home Championship. He played in a 2–1 victory against Northern Ireland,[61] a 3–0 victory against Wales[62] and a 1–0 victory against Scotland.[63] 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 1974 FIFA World Cup. England had needed to defeat Poland to qualify.[64] Poland's goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski had been labelled "a clown" by Brian Clough before the match but turned in a man-of-the-match performance in which he repeatedly denied England's attackers (including Bell). The only goal that Tomaszewski conceded was an equalizing penalty from Allan Clarke.[65] In drawing the game, Poland qualified for the finals in West Germany at the expense of England.[66] England's failure led to manager Alf Ramsey's departure.[67] Bell's former manager at Manchester City, Joe Mercer (who had left City in 1971), took over as caretaker of the national side and chose Bell to play in every game that he was in charge.[68]

Bell also played for England in the 1973–74 British Home Championship which was shared with Scotland. Bell played in a 2–0 victory against Wales (in which Stan Bowles and Kevin Keegan were the scorers),[69] a 1–0 victory against Northern Ireland[70] and a 2–0 defeat to Scotland.[71] Bell played for England in a 2–2 draw against Argentina in which Mick Channon and Frank Worthington scored for England and Mario Kempes scored twice for Argentina.[72] He was also part of the England squad that toured Eastern Europe in the summer of 1974. This included a 1–1 draw with East Germany, in "which Martin Dobson, (Colin) Bell and Trevor Brooking dominated the match in midfield".[73] In the second game of the tour, England defeated Bulgaria 1–0.[74] The performance of England's midfield trio (Bell, Brooking and Dobson) in the game was described as "tremendous".[75] In the last game of the tour (which was Mercer's last game as England manager), England drew 2–2 with Yugoslavia.[76]

Bell scored a brace in Don Revie's first game in charge of England, a 3–0 victory over Czechoslovakia.[77][78] In Revie's third game in charge, Bell helped England defeat the then World Champions, Germany, 2–0, in 1975, at the one hundredth international game played at Wembley Stadium.[79] The team that beat the Germans in that game consisted of a forward line-up of Channon, Keegan, Malcolm Macdonald, Alan Hudson and Alan Ball, as well as Bell. Channon commented that he did not understand why Revie did not continue with this line-up which he considered was as good as any forward line England had had since 1970.[80] In the game against the West Germans, the energy and tackling of Bell and Ball had freed Hudson to show his full range of playmaking skills.[81] Bell also helped England to win the 1974–75 British Home Championship. Bell played in a 0–0 draw with Northern Ireland,[82] a 2–2 draw with Wales[83] and a 5–1 victory against Scotland (in which he also scored).[84]

Other international appearances[edit]

In January 1973, Bell played for the New European Common Market (NECM), alongside Peter Storey, Emlyn Hughes, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Alan Ball, in the match celebrating the admission to the European Common Market of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. NECM defeated the Old European Common Market (OECM) 2–0.[85] In addition, in March 1974, Bell scored a goal in a 5–0 victory for The Football League XI against the Scottish Football League XI at Maine Road.[86]

Later life[edit]

Bell subsequently became a coach for the youth and reserve teams of Manchester City, as well as one of its club ambassadors.[26] He was awarded an MBE in 2004 for services to the community.[87]

Bell was diagnosed with bowel cancer shortly after his autobiography, Reluctant Hero, was released in 2005. He detailed how his mother died from that same disease and was encouraged to have it examined himself. He was operated on within three weeks of the diagnosis.[26] He died on 5 January 2021 at the age of 74. He suffered from a short illness in the time leading up to his death.[26][88]


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".[6] Bell has been inducted into both the English Football Hall of Fame and the Manchester City Hall of Fame. In 1998 he was selected as one of the Football League 100 Legends.[89] In his foreword to Colin Bell's autobiography, Bobby Charlton has stated that "Colin Bell was unquestionably a great player".[90] Alan Mullery, another of Bell's former England teammates stated that Bell would "still be a star in today's football" and "would fit into any team".[91] Another England teammate of Bell's, Kevin Keegan, has stated that Bell "had it all".[92] England legend Tom Finney stated that "Colin Bell was as good as anything I've ever seen".[93] George Best described Bell as a "brilliant player".[94] Joe Royle described Bell as a "phenomenal natural athlete" and "a wonderful footballer".[95] Journalist Dave Maddock described Bell as "possibly the greatest midfield talent England has ever unearthed".[96] In 2003, Manchester City moved into the new City of Manchester Stadium, and in February 2004, one of the ends, the west stand, was named after Bell as a tribute.[97] Only three players have scored more goals than Bell for Manchester City in all competitions: Sergio Agüero with 252 goals, Eric Brook with 177 goals and Tommy Johnson with 166 goals. Bell scored 152 goals for Manchester City in all competitions. He was deemed by to be England's twenty-sixth best-ever footballer.[68] He is listed as the greatest-ever City player on the Times website,[98] in Ian Penney's book The Essential History of Manchester City,[99] and in the Manchester Evening News.[100]

Career statistics[edit]


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup League Cup Continental Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Bury[101] 1963–64 Second Division 10 2 10 2
1964–65 42 13 1 2 45 13
1965–66 30 10 1 31 10
Total 82 25 2 2 86 25
Manchester City[102] 1965–66 Second Division 11 4 11 4
1966–67 First Division 42 12 6 1 2 1 50 14
1967–68 35 14 4 2 4 1 43 17
1968–69 39 14 5 3 1 2 49 15
1969–70 31 11 2 6 5 9 5 48 21
1970–71 34 13 3 4 1 7 2 45 19
1971–72 33 12 2 1 2 36 14
1972–73 39 7 5 2 2 1 2 48 10
1973–74 41 7 2 11 3 54 10
1974–75 42 15 1 2 3 45 18
1975–76 20 6 5 1 25 7
1976–77 0 0
1977–78 16+1 2 2 2 20+1 2
1978–79 10 0 1+1 1 3+1 1 15+2 1
Total 393+1 117 33+1 9 40 18 23+1 8 489+3 152
San Jose Earthquakes[103] 1980 North American Soccer League 5 0 5 0
Career total 480+1 142 35+1 9 42 18 23+1 8 580+3 177

International goals[edit]

Scores and results list England's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Bell goal.
List of international goals scored by Colin Bell
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition Ref(s)
1 12 June 1969 Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro  Brazil 1–0 1–2 Friendly match [104]
2 5 November 1969 Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam  Netherlands 1–0 1–0 Friendly match [105]
3 20 May 1972 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 3–0 3–0 British Home Championship [106]
4 15 November 1972 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 1–0 1–0 1974 FIFA World Cup qualification [107]
5 26 September 1973 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Austria 7–0 7–0 Friendly match [108]
6 30 October 1974 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Czechoslovakia 2–0 3–0 1976 European Football Championship qualification [109]
7 3–0
8 12 March 1975 Empire Stadium, Wembley  West Germany 1–0 2–0 Friendly match [110]
9 24 May 1975 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Scotland 3–0 5–1 British Home Championship [111][112]



Manchester City





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



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