Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Colin Bell - Englands finest ever footballer - RIP

Last night, we settled down to watch the Spurs vs Brentford League Cup semi final. Half way through, the commentary team started to talk about England and Manchester City legend Colin Bell. To my horror, this was how I learned that Colin Bell MBE had passed away. I am a Manchester City fan and like just about every City fan of my era, Colin Bell, the King of the Kippax was my favourite player. I started supporting City in 1968, the Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison era. I was six years old. I think initially, I loved Bell because his mop of hair was a bit like mine. Bell was everything I wanted a football to be. I have never been a fan of over flashy players. I liked fast players who just got on with it.

Bell was known as Nijinsky, for his amazing stamina and athletic ability. He would breeze past opponents. You almost knew that when Bell got the ball at the half way line and started running, a goal was likely to follow. The era was very different. The pitches were rubbish and the full backs and centre backs were hard as nails. You would see them lung in on Bell, who more often than not would skip over the challenge and head straight for the box. If I had a Tardis, maybe the match I would most love to see was the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in 1968. City and United were neck and neck for the title. United had a team of legends. City had Bell, Summerbee and Lee. City coach, Malcolm Allison had hired a steeplejack to climb the roof and fly a City flag over Old Trafford. City won and only their second title made its way across Manchester. Whilst many hail George Best as the worlds greatest and most skilfull footballer, Bell was a completely different character. Where as Best was an individualist, who threw his talent away, Bell was a team player, who lit up every game, but was never flashy. 

Bell was also a very decent, humble and honest guy. His career was effectively ended by Manchester United's Martin Buchan, in a League cup game that City won 4-0. Bell always insisted it was an accident and that Buchan did nothing wrong. Sadly Bell played in the era before the big bucks, so didn't get the rewards that his efforts would have earned today.  He maintained his link with City and City named a stand after him when they moved to the Etihad. It seems ironic that the day after his passing, City once again play Utd in the League Cup, the fixture that effectively ended his career. I think Bell would approve of the style of play and especially his spiritual successor, Kevin Dd Bruyne, who is in many ways the heir to the throne of the King of the Kippax.

There is always a debate about how former greats would cope in the modern era. My view is that Colin Bell is one of the very few who would absolutely thrive. He was a natural footballer, with an amazing work ethic. Malcolm Allison was a progressive coach, who modernised the English game. Bell was the key to how he wanted City to play. Bell played on poor pitches, in an era of crunching tackles. He had good feet, an amazingly quick brain, was quick and had superb stamina. I am sure he would have had no problem adapting. I can only dream about how he may have fitted into Guardiola's team with De Bruyne and David Silver, but I suspect he would absolutely shine. Furthermore, the injuries that ended his career would have been fixed today and his career would undoubtedly have had more highlights.

I've seen many great players. Of the English players over the years, I've seen Bobby Moore, Glen Hoddle, Stanley Bowles, Paul Gascoigne, Bryan Robson, Kevin Keegan, to name a few. Great players all. But to me, none compare to Colin Bell.

We'll drink a drink a drink
To Colin the King the King the King
He's the leader of Man City
He's the greatest inside forward
That the world has ever seen

Colin Bell RIP and thanks for all of the memories

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