Colin Bell

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For other people named Colin Bell, see Colin Bell (disambiguation).
Colin Bell
Personal information
Date of birth (1946-02-26) 26 February 1946 (age 70)
Place of birth Hesleden, County Durham, England
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
Horden Colliery Welfare Juniors
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1966 Bury 82 (25)
1966–1979 Manchester City 394 (117)
1980 San Jose Earthquakes 5 (0)
Total 481 (142)
National team
1968–1975 England 48 (9)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Colin Bell MBE (born 26 February 1946), is an English former football player who was born in Hesleden, County Durham,[1] England. Nicknamed "The King of the Kippax" (after Manchester City's Kippax Street terraced stand renowned for its singing) and Nijinsky after the famous racehorse (due to his renowned stamina). Bell is widely regarded as Manchester City's best ever player. The Colin Bell Stand at the City of Manchester Stadium is named in his honour.

Early career[edit]

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. 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[edit]

In 1970 Bell earned a place in the England squad for the World Cup in Mexico. To help the players acclimatise to the heat of Mexico, the team staged an intra-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 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 Germany scored their first goal before he was substituted, and also that the 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[edit]

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 manager 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'.[who?] His finest performances for his country included scoring in the 7–0 demolition of Austria, and also helping England defeat World Champions Germany 2–0 in 1975 at the one hundredth international game played at Wembley Stadium. The team that beat the 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 the manager at the time, 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[edit]

In 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. He attempted a return in 1977, but called time on his 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 and scoring in the final of 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 of the calibre of Bell, Summerbee and Lee as he had done in the past with Joe Mercer. In 1980 Bell tried to resurrect his career with NASL side San Jose Earthquakes where he joined former Manchester United player George Best. The move didn't succeed as he only played 5 games for the club.

After football[edit]

Bell later continued his service with the Maine Road club by working with the youth team, but left before returning during the 1990s as the club's first ambassador. He was guest of honour at Manchester City's final match at Maine Road against Southampton in May 2003. In 2004, Manchester City polled fans to determine a name for the main stand at their new stadium. Bell won the poll and the West Stand at The City of Manchester Stadium was renamed "The Colin Bell Stand" in honour of their greatest ever player. This was a unique honour, as all of the others remain nameless to this day, although one of the roads leading to the stadium is called "Joe Mercer Way" in honour of Manchester City's most successful 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 appointed 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 at 39 when he was too young to remember. Colin Bell's son, a doctor, was asked to have the book autographed for Consultant Surgeon, Jim Hill. When reading about Colin's mother, Mr Hill suggested that the football legend be examined. A bowel tumour was discovered on colonoscopy at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and within two weeks he underwent life-saving surgery.


England, Manchester City and Bury fans 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'.[2] 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'.[3] Yet another England team mate of Bell's, Kevin Keegan, has stated that Bell 'had it all'.[4] England legend Tom Finney stated that 'Colin Bell was as good as anything I've ever seen'. Journalist Dave Maddock described Bell as 'possibly the greatest midfield talent England has ever unearthed'.[5] 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.[6] Only two players have scored more goals than Colin Bell for Manchester City in all competitions: Eric Brook who scored 178 and Tommy Johnson who scored 166. Bell scored 152 goals for Manchester City in all competitions. Bell has been inducted into the Manchester City FC hall of fame along with Billy Meredith, Tommy Johnson, Sam Cowan, Eric Brook, Fred Tilson, Frank Swift, Peter Doherty, Roy Clarke, Bert Trautmann, Ken Barnes, Roy Paul, Alan Oakes, Neil Young, Mike Summerbee, Tony Book, Francis Lee, Joe Corrigan, Paul Lake and Niall Quinn. He was deemed by to be England's twenty-sixth best ever footballer.[7]

Career statistics[edit]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1963–64 Bury Second Division 10 2 10 2
1964–65 42 13 1 2 45 13
1965–66 30 10 1 31 10
1965–66 Manchester City 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
1980 San Jose Earthquakes North American Soccer League 5 0 5 0
Total England 475+1 142 35+1 9 42 18 23+1 8 575+3 177
USA 5 0 5 0
Career total 480+1 142 35+1 9 42 18 23+1 8 580+3 177

International goals[edit]

Date Venue Opponent Result Competition Scored
12 June 1969 Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro  Brazil 1–2 Friendly match 1 (1)
5 November 1969 Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam  Netherlands 1–0 Friendly match 1 (2)
20 May 1972 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 3–0 British Home Championship 1 (3)
15 November 1972 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 1–0 1974 FIFA World Cup qualification 1 (4)
26 September 1973 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Austria 7–0 Friendly match 1 (5)
30 October 1974 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Czechoslovakia 3–0 1976 European Football Championship qualification 2 (7)
12 March 1975 Empire Stadium, Wembley  West Germany 2–0 Friendly match 1 (8)
24 May 1975 Empire Stadium, Wembley  Scotland 5–1 British Home Championship 1 (9)

Honours won[edit]

As a player[edit]

Manchester City F.C.

  • FA Cup winner 1969
  • First Division Champions 1967–68, runner-up 1976-77
  • Second Division Champions 1965-66
  • League Cup winner 1970, 1976, runner-up 1974
  • European Cup Winner's Cup winner 1970
  • Charity Shield winner 1973
  • Reserve League Champions 1977-78


  • Included in the Football League 100 Legends list to celebrate the centenary of the Football League in 1998
  • The Colin Bell Stand was named in his honour at the City of Manchester Stadium
  • Inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to English Football
  • Voted Manchester City's all-time cult hero by BBC Football Focus
  • Awarded the MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in 2005 for services to the community in Manchester


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


  1. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero, p. 19 & p. 20.
  2. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. p. 7. 
  3. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. p. 16. 
  4. ^ Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero. p. 15. 
  5. ^ Maddock, Dave (27 January 1996). "Bell of a guy". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^

External links[edit]