Charlton leads tributes to Lofthouse, the brave 'Lion of Vienna'

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The Independent Football

Sir Bobby Charlton led the tributes to Nat Lofthouse, who died on Saturday. The former Bolton Wanderers centre-forward, who scored 30 goals in 33 England games, was described by Charlton as "a great player, without any question".

Lofthouse and Charlton's England careers briefly overlapped in 1958 and they both scored in a 5-0 win in a friendly with the Soviet Union at Wembley that year. That was Lofthouse's final international goal, and since his retirement only Charlton, Gary Lineker, Jimmy Greaves and Michael Owen have scored more goals for England.

"He was a leader," said Charlton. "He had fantastic ability in the air and he was strong. He was a talisman. I played about four or five games with him with England at the end of his career and I felt that he was the one that was in charge. I know a lot of people in the game of football will be very, very sad today about Nat Lofthouse, who was a great player without any question.

"You just put the ball in there at any height and he was so brave. He scored phenomenal goals in the air. In those days, if you were a centre-forward, you had to do more than score goals. You had to lead. You had to be tough."

It was Lofthouse's bravery that led to his being nicknamed "the Lion of Vienna", after his performance in the famous 3-2 win over Austria in 1952. Lofthouse scored twice, and was carried off injured but returned to the pitch. The later England manager Sir Alf Ramsey said: "The way he insisted on coming back on lifted the heart of every Englishman in the stadium. It made us redouble our efforts to keep the Austrians out."

Lofthouse's entire club career was spent at Bolton Wanderers, for whom he scored 255 League goals in 452 appearances.

Bolton's chairman, Phil Gartside, said: "He was a one-club man and our football club meant as much to him as he did to us." Lofthouse scored both goals in Bolton's FA Cup final win over Manchester United in 1958, the second controversially as he pushed goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net.

Don Howe, another England team-mate, said of Lofthouse: "He was not only a great player, he was a great character."