Football: Tommy Lawton dies at age of 77

Tommy Lawton, the flat-footed Bolton boy who became the Alan Shearer of the post-war era, has died, a month after his 77th birthday.

Lawton, who was ill for some time before succumbing to pneumonia, had become a frail shadow of the centre-forward who terrorised defences in a top-class career spanning two decades. He was able to visit Notts County, where he had a number of contrasting spells, and Nottingham Forest on an infrequent basis, but penned a column for the Evening Post in his adopted city and remained an avid watcher of football on television.

Leading the tributes to Lawton last night were the two England wingers who, he used to say, delivered such perfect crosses that the lace in the old-fashioned ball never made contact with his forehead.

Sir Stanley Matthews, 81, said he was "very saddened" by the news. "Tommy was a wonderful player and a true friend. I could guarantee him making contact from nine out of 10 crosses - he was simply a brilliant header of the ball. He provides so many memories, not least for his great sense of humour."

Tom Finney, 74, made his international debut alongside Lawton in a 7- 2 win over Northern Ireland in 1946, when both scored. "I'll never forget the way Tommy helped me settle into the team - I'll always be indebted to him for that," he said.

The stark statistics of Lawton's feats provide irrefutable evidence of his awesome ability. In three seasons of schoolboy football he amassed nearly 600 goals. After a debut for Burnley at 16, he cost Everton a then substantial pounds 6,500 in 1937.

A powerful header of the ball, and a good passer (despite wearing arch supports in his boots because of his flat feet), Lawton scored 38 times in the championship season of 1938-39. He was to win 23 full caps and score 22 goals (when wartime internationals are included his tally is a staggering 46 goals from 45 games). After the conflict he joined Chelsea, moving on to Notts County for a British-record pounds 20,000.

After winding down his career with Brentford and Arsenal, he finished with 282 senior goals and a further 250 in wartime football. Brief spells as manager of Brentford and County both ended in relegation, although he later returned to Meadow Lane as coach and chief scout.

Obituary, page 18

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