Royal visit for City Blue

It’s not every day that royalty drops in for ‘elevenses’ – but that’s exactly what happened when a King came calling on ailing Manchester City fan, Philip Entwistle.

Phil (63), who is fighting what will ultimately be a losing battle against lung cancer, welcomed ‘King’ Colin Bell and City’s perennial Joker in the Pack, Les Chapman, into his Nelson home for a nostalgic chat of a lifetime.

City Blue Philip Entwistle was thrilled when King Colin and Cheeky Chappy visited him at his home in Nelson.

City Blue Philip Entwistle was thrilled when King Colin and Cheeky Chappy visited him at his home in Nelson.

A season ticket holder at Maine Road and the Etihad for more than 40-years, Phil, was thrilled to spend two-and-a-half hours with his football hero, as Colin – now 71 years old – regaled him with the highs and lows of his outstanding career with City and England.

It was a shared and very emotional experience when Phil asked his idol what was his best game in a City shirt? The answer surprised both Phil and Les.

It wasn’t the thrilling 4-3 victory at Newcastle which clinched the 1968 First Division title, making City the Champions of England.

Winning the First Division title in a thrilling 4-3 encounter against Newcastle in 1968 isn't Colin's most memorable ever game.

Winning the First Division title in a thrilling 4-3 encounter against Newcastle in 1968 isn’t Colin’s most memorable ever game.

It wasn’t the 1-0 1969 FA Cup Final win over Leicester, nor was it the 1970 European Cup Winners Cup triumph over Gornik Zabre – the one and only time City have lifted a major European trophy.

In his own words, Colin Bell’s ‘best game’ for City was a 45-minute appearance as a second half substitute.

“I didn’t score, in fact I hardly touched the ball, but it was the most fantastic experience, truly humbling and hugely emotional – it was my comeback match against Newcastle United on 26th December 1977,” said Colin.

Wembley glory in the FA Cup Final against Leicester City in 1969 isn't Colin's most memorable game.

Wembley glory in the FA Cup Final against Leicester City in 1969 isn’t Colin’s most memorable game.

Colin had suffered horrendous damage to his knee in a 4-0 League Cup hammering of Manchester United more than two years previously.

He’d caught his studs on a muddy Maine Road pitch and United’s Martin Buchan had thundered into Colin with a clumsy – some might say malicious – challenge, twisting Bell’s standing leg and wrecking his knee.

As Colin prepared to step out once more on the Maine Road turf on that Boxing Day afternoon, word spread like wildfire as half time drew to a close.

“I couldn’t believe the atmosphere. The whole ground, including the Newcastle fans, stood and applauded and chanted my name.

Beating Gornik Zabre 2-1 in rain drenched Vienna to win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1970 isn't Colin's most memorable game.

Beating Gornik Zabre 2-1 in rain drenched Vienna to win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1970 isn’t Colin’s most memorable game.

“I was a passenger, but everyone tells me it was great seeing me there. For me it was, and always will be my number one game, my number one memory of playing football.”

Phil remembered it almost as vividly as Colin. He was in the Main Stand just eight rows above the player’s tunnel and, even now, more than 39 years on, he wells up, recalling that first magical sighting of Colin The King running onto the pitch.

The emotions of that chilly winter afternoon – the outpouring of footballing ‘love’ and admiration for Colin is in stark contrast to the behaviour of United’s Buchan – the man who effectively ended Colin’s career.

'Fantastic, truly humbling and hugely emotional...' is how Colin describes his most memorable game - his City comeback against Newcastle on Boxing Day 1977.

‘Fantastic, truly humbling and hugely emotional…’ is how Colin describes his most memorable game – his City comeback against Newcastle on Boxing Day 1977.

More than 40 years on, the United defender has never contacted Colin – nothing – no word of regret, no apology.

It came as no surprise to Phil when Colin spoke warmly of the two men who shaped his career like no others – Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison.

“Joe was like a father figure, so revered and respected – a true gentleman – whereas Malcolm – what a man – you’d run through brick walls for him. He was so far ahead of his time with his training methods, sports psychology, diet and nutrition.”

Mercer & Allison - Colin believes City won have dominated English football if they'd stayed together.

Mercer & Allison – Colin believes City would have dominated English football if they’d stayed together.

When the conversation turned to the present day City, Colin was full of praise for Pep Guardiola, a man he says is the best manager in the world and one who is being backed 100% by City owner Sheikh Mansour.

There are many – Colin included – who believe Pep will deliver success in a way that will surpass anything City have ever achieved, but Phil asked Colin which was the best City team he’d ever seen?

Best in the world - Colin is convinced that Pep Guardiola and Sheikh Mansour will take City to new levels of success.

Best in the world – Colin is convinced that Pep Guardiola and Sheikh Mansour will take City to new levels of success.

Once again the answer may surprise some as it wasn’t the Mercer-Allison side of the late 1960s and early 70s.

Colin raised eyebrows when he said Tony Book’s 1976-77 team – beaten to the title by Bob Paisley’s all-conquering Liverpool by a single point – was the best.

City's best ever - Colin rates Tony Book's Division One Runners-Up side of 1976-77 as the best City line-up in his career.

City’s best ever – Colin rates Tony Book’s Division One Runners-Up side of 1976-77 as the best City line-up in his career.

Tellingly the squad which featured the likes of  Corrigan, Clements , Keegan, Henry, Donachie, Watson, Doyle, Power, Hartford, Owen, Barnes, Tueart, Kidd, Royle would – without a shadow of a doubt – have been Champions of England, if Colin Bell had been available.

With Phil and Les enthralled by Colin’s recollections, The King revealed his favourite player of all time…and once again it might come as a surprise to many.

Bobby Charlton is the player Colin admired the most, and he recalled the irony of how their paths crossed when England crashed out of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

Colin and United's Bobby Charlton were Manchester rivals, but Bell describes Charlton as the player he most admired.

Colin and United’s Bobby Charlton were Manchester rivals, but Bell describes Charlton as the player he most admired.

England had led 2-0 in the sweltering heat of Leon, before Franz Beckenbauer pulled one back in the 69th minute.  60 seconds later, Sir Alf Ramsey withdrew a tiring 32-year old Charlton and sent on a fresher, fitter 24-year old Bell, in an attempt to see out the game and preserve Bobby for the semi final.

The rest is history as the Germans equalised, before snatching victory through Gerd Muller in extra time.

47-years, on Colin joked that he lost England the World Cup – which of course he didn’t – but it might have seemed that way as the Germans went up a gear after Charlton was substituted.

World Cup heartbreak - Colin replaced Bobby Charlton in the sweltering Mexican heat before West Germany sealed a 3-2 comeback win in 1970.

World Cup heartbreak – Colin replaced Bobby Charlton in the sweltering Mexican heat before West Germany sealed a 3-2 comeback win in 1970.

Arguably Manchester City’s finest player of all time (a certain David Silva might be seen as a modern challenger to that accolade), Colin is and will forever be, Phil’s football idol.

Colin’s career effectively ended at the age of 29 years, thanks to Martin Buchan, whereas a certain young Philip Entwistle’s football fortunes were curtailed when injuries took a toll, while representing Burnley at youth team level.

A football tragedy - Colin was stretchered off with his knee wrecked by Martin Buchan as City trounced United 4-0 in the League Cup back in 1975.

A football tragedy – Colin was stretchered off with his knee wrecked by Martin Buchan as City trounced United 4-0 in the League Cup back in 1975.

Unable to progress into professional football, Phil carved out a successful amateur career as a ball playing centre half for Colne British Legion.

They both – along with Les – share a love of football, and the fact they spent 150 minutes chewing the cud on all things City, meant the world to Phil.

Les said:”It was amazing how much Phil knew about Colin’s games and goals for both City and England – it was great to see how much he relished being in Colin’s company.”

Imperious - Colin The King.

Majestic – Colin The King.

And a final word from Phil: “It was smashing to spend time with Colin and Les – it was so interesting and the conversation just kept flowing. I’d like to say a big thank you to them both, and also to Read But Never Red for making it happen.

“We’re all Blues Brothers together.”

  

By David Walker

Dedicated to a man I’m privileged to call my friend – Philip Entwistle – and to two other good men, true and blue who are also waging war on the the b@st@rd called Cancer – Dave Hughes and Lee Welland. Come on fellas there’s a lot of people rooting for you – fight, fight and fight again!

 

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

24 Comments

  1. March 26, 2017  3:09 pm by Susan Bookbinder Reply

    Beautiful tribute David!

    • March 26, 2017  3:28 pm by David Walker Reply

      The least I could try and do. Phil's a lovely fella who's sat in front of me at the Etihad for many a year.

  2. March 26, 2017  3:56 pm by Ray Nicholas Reply

    A wonderful read and here's hoping somehow all three manage to defeat the evil of cancer.

    • March 26, 2017  11:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Ray and let's hope against hope and go for the most wonderful of hat-tricks.

  3. March 26, 2017  4:37 pm by Guvnor Reply

    Fantastic Read, I shared every memory. I am so glad Phil had this visit, well done Les & Colin. Well done RBNR.

    • March 26, 2017  5:19 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Guvnor, it's a privilege to at least be in a position where I can ask people to ask people to help others out in their hour of need.

  4. March 26, 2017  5:57 pm by Will Reply

    What a brilliant gesture by all involved. Colin is my and many others all time King. I remember Radio 2 switching to Maine Road after ht when Colin came back. Words were unnecessary as the crowd noise said it all. Such affection and so richly deserved. Good luck to Phil, Dave & Lee to get as much quality time as possible. May it be many years with loads of City trophies.

  5. March 26, 2017  6:08 pm by Phil Taylor Reply

    really good read Dave, and as above so many memories for me too. Appreciate the reference to Lee, we all wish him the very best. Well done.

    • March 26, 2017  10:06 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Mr T - our hearts, best wishes and positive thoughts go out to Lee, Phil and Dave Hughes in their respective battles with b@st@rd Cancer.

  6. March 26, 2017  6:09 pm by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Great article and what a wonderful thing that Colin Bell did. I was at both the game when Colin Bell was injured and the comeback game. On the night of the injury I was convinced that it was just an unfortunate tackle and every time I re-watch it, I don't change my mind. Buchan was never a dirty player and you can't convince me that it was anything other than a fair, hard tackle that resulted in Bell falling awkwardly and injuring his knee. I also remember the emotion in the ground when he came on against Newcastle. It was the second time that football made me cry - the first was when City got relegated in 1963.

    • March 26, 2017  10:08 pm by David Walker Reply

      So many tears over the years - thanks for the feedback all the way from Israel.

  7. March 26, 2017  6:33 pm by Ian Barton Reply

    Lovely story Dave obviously can only wish Phil the best, great gesture by the King & Les for being such great characters. Excellent effort on your part too mate!

    • March 26, 2017  10:05 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks your Lordship - Phil is very very deserving of the efforts of all concerned.

  8. March 26, 2017  7:50 pm by Mark Reply

    Colin was and always will be, my favourite ever blue. David a close 2nd

    • March 26, 2017  10:04 pm by David Walker Reply

      David's still has more in the tank in terms of trophies to come - it'll be a very close call when El Mago is finally done.

  9. March 26, 2017  8:46 pm by Pete lynch Reply

    Beautiful, nostalgic piece David.

  10. March 27, 2017  1:14 am by Jim Gormley Reply

    So sorry to hear this about Phil, he is a true blue and a true Gent, that Cancer is a bastard, keep on fighting it matey !

    • March 27, 2017  9:51 am by David Walker Reply

      He's a top top guy and he will - in true City style - 'Fight 'Till The End'. Thanks.

  11. March 27, 2017  8:32 am by Carole Reply

    Truly touching and heartwarming piece Dave. Great work in setting the meeting up too...must have meant the world to Phil. What a privilege to be there....lucky you!!

    • March 27, 2017  9:50 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Carole - really pleasing to help make it happen for a really terrific gent.

  12. March 27, 2017  5:23 pm by Trevor Makings Reply

    Lovely warm story Dave. Can only wish the very best to Phil. Says so much about the King too, gents together

    • March 27, 2017  5:25 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Trev - you're right - gentlemen Blue & True...and Chappy of course!

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