Cape Town, South Africa born left half Alex Bell began his football career as a centre forward with various clubs in Ayr, including Ayr Spring Vale, Ayr Westerlea, and he played for Ayr Parkhouse in 1901. While with Ayr Parkhouse, Bell was spotted by former Newton Heath half back Will Davidson, who reported his findings back to Second Division Newton Heath (the following season they became Manchester United) who signed Bell for £700 in January 1903, making his Football League debut at Glossop the same month.
He struggled to make an impact in the Manchester United first team as a centre forward, making just 11 appearances in his first two years at the club. However, United suffered an injury crisis at half back in 1904, and Bell was called upon to step in. As it happened, Bell excelled in his new position, and became the club’s regular left half, forming an unbreakable trio with Charlie Roberts and Dick Duckworth.
He missed only two games during United’s 1905-06 promotion season, when they finished Second Division runners-up, and he was then a mainstay as United won the League Championship twice in 1907-08 and 1910-11. He was also a member of their 1909 FA Cup Final winning team, when they beat Bristol City 1-0 in the Final at Crystal Palace.
He won his only cap for Scotland when he played in a 4-1 victory against Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast in March 1912, in so doing he was Manchester United’s first Scotland international. He scored 10 goals in 309 appearances over eleven seasons at Old Trafford before joining Blackburn Rovers in July 1913, playing 8 times as they won the 1913-14 League Championship and 12 times in total for Rovers before his retirement. He was later a trainer at Coventry City and then at Manchester City.