Mens Team

Colin Bell: It was a privilege to play in front of City's fans

Colin Bell: It was a privilege to play in front of City's fans
Forty-one years ago, today the curtain closed on the career of one of Manchester City’s all-time greats.

August 21, 1979 sadly saw Colin Bell call time on his wonderful career after the midfield marvel was forced to admit defeat in his near four-year battle to recover from a serious knee injury.

It was a sad end to a magical period that saw the shy man from County Durham blossom and become arguably English football’s greatest-ever midfielder.

Nicknamed Nijinsky after the famous Derby winning racehorse, due to his remarkable stamina and powers of endurance, Bell was the heartbeat of the legendary City aide assembled by Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in the late 1960s.

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Together with other stellar talents such as Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee, Neil Young and Mike Doyle – to name but a few – Colin helped City establish ourselves as the dominant force in the English game.

The Division One title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup were all secured over the course of a dazzling unforgettable few years.

Bell also emerged as the talismanic driving force of the England set-up under first Sir Alf Ramsey and more latterly Don Revie – himself a former City star.

Tragically, that serious knee injury sustained in a League Cup derby against Manchester United in December 1975 was to cut short Bell’s career while he was still in his pomp at just 29.


                        PEERLESS TALENT: Colin Bell during his City heyday
PEERLESS TALENT: Colin Bell during his City heyday

Though Colin bravely battled to regain fitness over a number of years, with medical science still in its infancy he never fully recovered and eventually – on this day in 1979 - announced his retirement.

However, the King of the Kippax’s reputation has, if anything, has only been enhanced in the ensuing 41 years with many asserting he remains our greatest-ever player.

Modest to the core, Bell was always happier to let his feet do his talking for him.

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But, reflecting on his magnificent City career, Colin says he considers himself the fortunate one in having played in front of what he describes as ‘the greatest fans in the world.’

“I’m biased but you don’t get a better set of supporters than we have at City. Whatever you give to the City supporters they give you twice as much back,” Bell asserts.

“I count myself very lucky to have both played in front of the best fans anywhere. 

“You could not have got more supportive and honest supporters and that comes across in the feeling you get from the fans.


                        IN FULL FLOW: Nijinksky sets off on another forward foray
IN FULL FLOW: Nijinksky sets off on another forward foray

“The thing is that our supporters are so deserving. 

“They are so honest, so fair and to me it was a privilege to play in front of them.”

Reflecting on his wonderful career, Bell believes he was part of a special City ‘family;’ carefully overseen by legendary manager Joe Mercer and visionary coach Malcolm Allison.

The brand of attacking progressive football prescribed by Mercer and Allison rewrote the template for the way the game was played in this country

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For his part, Colin says playing his part in that golden generation was a ‘total joy.’

“There didn’t come any better coaches than Malcolm with Joe at the helm,” Colin reflects.

“As for the side - from one to eleven when everyone was fit, we knew what the team was and we all knew what to do.


                        SILVER DREAM MACHINE: Colin Bell, back row far right, and the rest of our 1970 squad pose proudly with the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup
SILVER DREAM MACHINE: Colin Bell, back row far right, and the rest of our 1970 squad pose proudly with the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup

“The balance of the team was perfect, and all the players knew how to play.

“It was a total joy to play alongside them. We were one big family – there was no edge to anyone.

"They were not just team-mates - they were my friends and it was such a great time.

“In my day if you were lucky enough to win just one of those trophies it was a cracking achievement.

“So, to be able to pick up the league, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup was remarkable.”


                        TRUE BLUES: Colin with another Club legend Tony Book
TRUE BLUES: Colin with another Club legend Tony Book

The measure of Colin’s legendary standing was amply demonstrated in February 2004 when the Club unveiled the new ‘Colin Bell Stand’, at the Etihad.

It was a fitting tribute for a player who brought so much joy to so many over the course of his storied career.

And it was a gesture that resonated powerfully with the 74-year-old.

“That was a tremendous honour that was bestowed on me,” Colin adds.

“I can't thank City fans enough for their continued magnificent support.”

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