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City A to Z: B is for?

Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli

In the second edition of our new alphabetical summer series, we look at the significance of the letter "B" in City history...

B is for Colin Bell

With his limitless energy, skill and all-round ability, he was the beating heart of one the most successful Manchester City sides ever.

He was, quite simply, one of the most complete City players of all time and a tremendous athlete.

A testament to his ability during those nine years is that Bell only failed to score less than ten League goals per season on three occasions – a record many strikers would not be able to match.

“Nijinsky”, as he was also known (after another famous thoroughbred, this time a racehorse), went on to win 48 caps for England (a record for a City player until Joe Hart finally broke it earlier this year) and also scored a memorable goal against World Champions Brazil in Rio.

In all, Bell played 489 times for City, scoring 152 goals… what a player!

B is for “Ballet on Ice”

City 4-1 Spurs (9 December 1967)

The famous ‘Ballet on Ice’ – as the press later dubbed it – was, on the face of it, no more than a Division One match between City and Tottenham on a snow-covered pitch.

However, those present and viewers of Match of the Day all agreed they had seen something very special on a cold, wintry Saturday afternoon back in 1967.

Joe Mercer decided to let his players warm up an hour before kick-off to acclimatise to the slippery conditions and it proved to be one of his many managerial masterstrokes. The Blues came out and played with sure-footed grace that had Spurs on the rack virtually from the word go.

Despite falling behind to an early Jimmy Greaves strike, City stormed back in almost blizzard-like conditions to score goals through Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Tony Coleman and Neil Young.

City, destined to win the League Championship that season, were described after the match by the legendary striker Dixie Dean as one of the best sides he had ever seen.

High praise, indeed…

Ballet on Ice: Highlights

B is for Bananas

Inflatables would be perhaps a more suitable home for this entry but seeing as it was the inflatable banana that brought City supporters to the attention of the national media, Europe and then the world, bananas win the contest.

Matchdays during the 1988–89 season were a colourful affair, especially on the Kippax or at away grounds and the Blues’ faithful were rightly praised by the media for bringing some much-needed humour back to a bit of a dull period for the club and football in general.

Who could forget the fights between the inflated Frankenstein and the green Dinosaur? The blow-up doll, ET, a giant claw-hammer and a hundred other variations?

The craze caught on and supporters at other clubs had their own varied themes, one of the best being Stoke City and their legions of Pink Panthers, Grimsby Town and their ‘Harry the Haddocks’ and Norwich City with their yellow canaries.

MCFC, always setting trends…

B is for Benarbia and Berkovic

Two for the price of one… but we couldn’t bring ourselves to separate this pair!

Ali Benarbia was brought to City on a free transfer in 2001 by Kevin Keegan as cover for the injured Eyal Berkovic but it was the Israeli playmaker’s return that gave birth to one of the most memorable partnerships in recent history.

Fielding both of these creative forces in the same team as part of a 3-5-2 with Kevin Horlock anchoring midfield proved to be a masterstroke from Keegan, as some of the most exciting, attacking football was seen in City’s promotion-winning 2001/02 season.

The duo complemented one another perfectly, with Benarbia’s lock-pick’s eye for a killer pass and taste for spectacular goals blending together with Berkovic’s ability to take on defenders with devastating, slaloming dribbles.

That season City scored more than 100 goals for the first time since the 1957/58 season in Division One and won the league by more than 10 points, thanks in no small part to this diminutive duo.

B is for Balotelli

The mercurial Italian striker was not at the Etihad Stadium for long but he certainly made his presence felt.

Mario joined the Blues in 2010 from Inter Milan, he made 80 appearances (including as a substitute) scoring 30 goals – more than 25% of them from the penalty spot.

Whether he was revealing iconic t-shirt messages at Old Trafford, holding impromptu fireworks displays at his house, scoring with his shoulder, honing his darts skills at the training ground or just "driving around Moss Side with a wallet full of cash", controversy seemed to follow the forward wherever he went - whether all of the stories were true or just works of fan-fiction, or no!

He went on to play for Milan before joining Liverpool last summer.

Still only 24, the Palermo-born hitman still has his best years ahead of him, despite a difficult first season on his return to the Premier League.

Mario Balotelli: A showreel

Join us tomorrow when we look at the letter "C" - send us your suggestions for B's we've missed and which C's you would like to see on Wednesday.

Tweet in @MCFC.

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