With the stamina of a racehorse and the brain of a master tactician, Colin Bell was the heart of what was possibly Manchester City's greatest ever side. Thanks to Bell's midfield mastery City won their second of two League titles in 1968. Along with Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee, Bell was part of a trio of players that made City the best team in England in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Bell started his career at Bury and was so influential he even captained the side before leaving to join Manchester City when he was just 20. Attempting to mislead other clubs about his intention to sign him then City manager Malcolm Allison famously said: "He can't head it, can't pass it, he's hopeless".
An all-round midfielder, in the words of Kevin Keegan, Bell in fact "had it all". Strong in the tackle but always willing to get forward, Bell was also a goalscorer. Despite his position in midfield, he is Manchester City's third highest marksman of all time. He hit the net 153 times in 496 games, an astounding record for a midfield player.
He was variously known as Nijinsky, after the famous racehorse, for his stamina, or King of the Kippax, reflecting his popularity on the Kippax stand at Maine Road. Bell is still thought of by City fans as the greatest player the club has ever had and after moving to their new home at the City of Manchester Stadium the west stand was renamed the Colin Bell Stand to reflect his hero status.
Seen as the successor to Bobby Charlton in the England team, Bell earned 48 caps for his country – more than any other Manchester City player. Despite five years in the England side and a trip to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Bell's England career left him frustrated. It was his ambition to reach 100 caps but that dream was effectively ended by an injury he received in 1975, at the age of just 29. There were still some great highlights for Bell in an England shirt. In his first game in 1968 he starred in a 3-1 win over Sweden and the following year scored the only goal in a win over Holland.
The beginning of the end came during a League Cup tie with Manchester United when a challenge from Martin Buchan left Bell with a serious knee injury. Despite a number of attempted comebacks Bell was unable to recapture the form of his earlier career and hung up his boots in 1979. By that time he had helped Manchester City to only their second First Division championship, lifted the League and Cup Winners' Cups in the same year and confirmed Manchester City's place among England's biggest clubs.
After his retirement, he returned to his beloved Manchester City to work with the youth team and many City fans hoped Bell would unearth a player as good as he was in his prime. He now works as an ambassador for the club. The final word on his remarkable talent should be left to the legend he replaced in the England team. Sir Bobby Charlton said of the City star: "Colin Bell was unquestionably a great player."