He was my favourite footballer. Oh George Best came second. Best was one of the greatest ever. He was from Belfast. George Best was a genius. As a 6 year old I supported Manchester United because of George Best BUT…
… As a 7 year old I changed my allegiance to Manchester City because of Colin Bell. I loved Colin Bell. My “uncle” Jimmy was a Colin Bell fan. He put doubt in my mind, trying to convince me that Bell not Best should have been Player of The Year in 1968. Between 1968 and 1975 Bell was certainly the more consistent. Oh not the flare but the engine, the vision and the eye for goal.
Colin Bell was my hero. United had Best, Law and Charlton and City had Bell, Lee and Summerbee. In their glory days the City trio were more victorious over that United legendary three. Bell was more of a reason for that than Lee or Summerbee I believe!
I read something in late 1974 about how Colin Bell would be the best player in the world by 1976. I believed it. In October 1974 I watched him playing for England and beating Czechoslovakia 3-0 all by himself!
Then a knee injury in 1975 took his career. Oh he worked for two years to recover but the damage was done. I was utterly distraught that he got injured. I was so excited when he made it back. I so wished but he never quite made it. Colin Bell was an amazing footballer but it might be that we didn’t even get to see his best years.
He was nicknamed Nijinsky, after the racehorse. He was described as “the most complete modern footballer”. He was also an old fashioned one in that he didn’t play the celebrity. He had great humility. As my poet friend Paul Cookson wrote in his tribute:
Think David Silva, Ya Ya Toure and Vincent Kompany all rolled into one. That was Colin Bell. He will always be my very favourite. I am so sorry to hear of his death. Thank you sir, for those glory years of my childhood.