MANCHESTER CITY are mourning the loss of their greatest ever player Colin Bell who died today at the age of 74.
The former England international midfielder was affectionately known as the ‘King of the Kippax’ due to his popularity at the club’s former home Maine Road.
His link up with Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee inspired a golden era for City in the late 60s.
After winning promotion in his first season, they went on to win the league title in 1967-8 and three other major trophies in the following years.
And Bell, who won 48 international caps, was widely regarded as one of the most complete midfielders this country has ever produced.
He was also known as 'Nijinsky' – after the famous racehorse – due to his energy and athleticism.
And it is ironic that he will be remembered at a derby against Manchester United at Old Trafford tomorrow night when City's players walk out of the tunnel wearing retro 1960s shirts with his No8 on the back.
Because it was in a game against the Red Devils in 1975 that Bell suffered a serious knee injury after a tackle from Martin Buchan.
That put him out of football for more than 18 months and despite numerous attempts at a comeback, he was never quite the same again.
Born in County Durham, Bell started his career with Bury before being signed by Second Division City in 1966.
He helped them to an immediate promotion before the Holy Trinity of Bell, Lee and Summerbee began to take the top flight by storm.
The star trio led the club to the title in only their second season after promotion – thanks to a final day 4-3 victory over Newcastle.
His form earned him an England call-up while back at Maine Road, he helped City to the FA Cup.
Then in 1970 they did a double of sorts – lifting the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup.
With England he went to the World Cup that year but it ended in disappointment as they were knocked out by West Germany in the quarter-finals.
A couple of years later, he did captain the Three Lions against Northern Ireland when Bobby Moore was out injured.
Back with his club, City’s glittering run came to something of a halt – but Bell remained their shining light.
He was also becoming a key player for England when suddenly everything changed in a game against their old rivals.
That serious injury came when he was just 29 – still in his pomp in many ways – and although he fought his way back he was never quite the same again.
He left his beloved City in 1979 – having made almost 500 appearances, scoring 152 goals and with his place in the club’s folklore secure forever.
Bell returned to the club as a youth coach and more recently as an ambassador – while a stand at the Etihad Stadium was named after him in February 2004.
That will ensure his legacy is never forgotten by anyone connected to Manchester City.
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