Manchester City unveil statue of legends Bell, Lee and Summerbee

Bronze artwork pays tribute to club's successes in golden era of late 1960s and early '70s

A statue honouring club legends Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee is unveiled outside Manchester City's home ground, Etihad Stadium, on November 28, 2023. Photo: Manchester City FC
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Manchester City have unveiled a new statue of legendary trio Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee.

The bronze artwork outside the Etihad Stadium commemorates the players' combined 30 years of service to City and also celebrates the club’s successes of the late 1960s and early '70s.

Three of the most popular players in the club’s history stand together on a single plinth in dynamic poses characteristic of their styles of play.

In a further tribute to the era in which City won the First Division title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup, the names of all 29 players who contributed to this period are inscribed on a bronze plate on the statue’s plinth.

The installation was conceived and created by world-renowned sculptor David Williams-Ellis, and measures almost 4.5 metres high and 4 metres wide, with an approximate weight of 2,000 kilograms.

Positioned on the west side of the stadium, near the Colin Bell Stand, in a newly landscaped garden area, the statue is the latest in a series of tributes to key figures forming the club’s legacy project, first announced in 2019 and directed by chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak

Al Mubarak said: “This statue honours three players who are unquestionably City legends and have deservedly earned a special place in the history of the club and hearts of the whole City family.

“The artist’s decision to feature the three men in motion on a single plinth, as well as include the 29 names of their teammates, gives us the opportunity to acknowledge a trophy-winning era of City football history that has, and will, resonate for generations to come.”

Fans attending Tuesday evening’s Champions’ League game against RB Leipzig will be among the first to enjoy the statue.

Though City had claimed silverware as early as the 1904 FA Cup and secured a first league title in 1937, it was during the late 1960s that the trio of Bell, Lee and Summerbee led them to their most triumphant period up until that point.

Summerbee had been the first to arrive in Manchester in 1965, scoring 67 goals in 449 appearances during his decade with the club. His pace and creativity would assist many more, including Neil Young’s winning-goal in the 1969 FA Cup final.

“This is a truly special moment for me and my family" said Summerbee, who is a club ambassador. "I joined Manchester City in 1965 and it is the best decision I could have possibly made. Fifty years later, I am still here, still treated with such respect.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be recognised in this way, amongst friends whose contribution to our history this club never forgets, despite the amazing success we have enjoyed in recent years. It is an honour to be part of this extraordinary club.”

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Nicknamed the "King of the Kippax" by supporters, Bell scored 153 goals in 498 games during a 13-year spell at the club. Such was his impact; the West Stand of the Etihad Stadium was renamed in his honour in 2004.

Speaking on behalf of his late father Colin, Jon Bell said: “This football club meant so much to my father. He gave so much to Manchester City, not just throughout his playing career but beyond it into his later life.

“His bond with this club’s supporters was truly exceptional and that he will be remembered in this way forever is something that our whole family is incredibly touched by and will take great pride in.”

On his arrival at Maine Road in 1967, Lee was described by manager Joe Mercer as "the final piece of the jigsaw". The prediction proved prophetic as the forward scored 148 goals in 330 games, including one in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

Speaking on behalf of his late father, Jonny Lee said: “My father enjoyed the most successful period of his career at Manchester City and to see that legacy immortalised in this way is so meaningful to his whole family.

“We only said goodbye to him in recent weeks and it was important to us that the club was at the centre of that. The supporters gave him the most beautiful send-off and to follow that up with such a permanent tribute is everything he could have hoped for.”

Sculptor Williams-Ellis said: “It has been a great honour to work alongside Manchester City in celebrating their rich history and the vast contribution of this very special team.

“I have been made aware throughout the process of the depth of feeling towards all three of players and how that has spanned across almost six decades. I hope my work brings that legacy to life as a timeless reminder for future generations of supporters.”

Following their successful on-pitch football careers, each player would proceed to represent the club for years to come: Bell working as a coach, Lee as chairman between 1994 and 1998, while Summerbee remains club ambassador to this day.

A feature length documentary highlighting the story of the statues from inception to build will be released on the Club’s YouTube channel and City+ platform this Saturday.

Updated: November 28, 2023, 6:54 AM