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28 October 2014

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Manchester City

Colin Bell: Reluctant Hero

They called him ‘Nijinsky’. He’s been voted City’s greatest all-time player and he won 48 England caps before a serious knee injury ended his career at just 29. In an exclusive interview for BBC GMR, Colin Bell, - City's Reluctant Hero - opens up:

Colin Bell
Bell: a supreme athlete

‘King’ Colin Bell was the lynchpin of the  Blues’ midfield as they carried all before them winning the League title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in the late 60s/early 70s.

Now City’s modest midfield supremo has emerged from the shadows to talk freely about everything from the loss of his mother while he was still a baby to the tackle by  United’s Martin Buchan in the Manchester derby which ended a brilliant career on the pitch.

BBC GMR’s Ian Cheeseman is Bell’s co-writer in the new autobiography 'Colin Bell - Reluctant Hero'. In an exclusive interview, he has spoken to the boy from County Durham who turned into Maine Road’s main man.

It was his supreme athleticism which earned him the nickname 'Nijinsky' and a tribute by none other than Sir Bobby Charlton as "unquestionably a great player."

Bell’s output for City was outstanding. In a 13-year spell, he made almost 500 appearances and scored 152 goals - almost the ‘one-in-three’ ratio that modern day strikers would consider the mark of a top-notch poacher.

""I felt Francis Lee let my family and me down very badly. I reluctantly asked for the return of my England cap. It broke myheart to take it back.""
Colin Bell, Manchester City legend

There were, though, the inevitable bad times. Bell is honest enough to admit he felt let down when his former team-mate Francis Lee, by the late 90s City’s chairman, oversaw his exit from the youth team set-up.

"I felt Francis Lee let my family and me down very badly," he said.

He goes on to detail the painful experience of asking the club he loved to hand back cherished memorabilia he had been so proud to put on display at Maine Road, then home of the Blues.

Colin Bell, Manchester City legend
A city legend: Colin Bell

"My family felt humiliated. I reluctantly asked for the return of my England cap. It broke my heart to take it back but felt it was something I had to do."

This frank look at the life of a true legend - who played for Sir Alf Ramsay, Joe Mercer and Don Revie in his England days - also show’s Bell’s sense of humour including the time he despatched a fellow player to a hotel reception in his birthday suit.

Throughout his playing days, Bell’s innate modesty was always in evidence. It is truly the story of one of football’s finest but most reluctant heroes.

'Colin Bell - Reluctant Hero' by BBC GMR's Manchester City reporter Ian Cheeseman. Published October 2005, by  Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh. £15.99

last updated: 26/10/05
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