Farewell, Nat: Bolton mourns one of its greats

It was billed as the unofficial championship of Europe – Austria v England in 1952 – and the score was 2-2 with seven minutes left when the away team's centre-forward, Nat Lofthouse, picked up the ball on the halfway line. As he dribbled goalwards he was tackled from behind, elbowed in the face and brought down by the goalkeeper, but nothing stopped him slamming the ball into the net to seal a memorable triumph.

The next day the press christened him the Lion of Vienna, and Lofthouse, who died at the weekend aged 85, would have the sobriquet attached to him for the rest of his life.

Lofthouse might perhaps have been even better described as the Lion of Bolton. He was born in the Lancashire town in 1925 and lived there throughout his life, playing more than 500 matches and scoring 255 goals for Bolton Wanderers. It was in a Bolton nursing home that he died, peacefully in his sleep, on Saturday evening.

Lofthouse signed forms with the only club he ever played for as a 14-year-old schoolboy on 4 September 1939, in time to watch the entire first team board military transport to join the war, which had been declared the previous day. His own contribution to the war effort was as a "Bevin Boy" – conscripted at the age of 18 to work in the coal mines. Often he would complete a shift down the pit on a Saturday morning and then play for Bolton in the afternoon. He would not make his league debut until 1946, scoring twice in a 4-3 defeat at Chelsea.

His England call-up came four years later at the age of 25 – too late, in the view of many. At a time when England were perhaps the best side in the world, it was often the leaping forehead of Lofthouse that the two great stars of the day, wingers Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews, would be aiming for when they crossed the ball back from the byline, the old-fashioned English way to play the game that, back then, terrified defences the world over. He would score 30 goals for England in 33 games.

Lofthouse retired in 1960 after a serious knee injury, but his association with Bolton Wanderers continued for more than half a century as a player, trainer, coach, manager, chief scout, and president. He received an OBE in 1994.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside said: "Nat undoubtedly is a Bolton Wanderers legend. He was a one-club man and our football club meant as much to him as he did to us. We will miss him but we will celebrate his life, his legacy and great times that he brought to Bolton Wanderers."

Commenting on the wealth of the professional era, the man himself said: "The game's changed out of all recognition to my day. The strip's changed, the ball's changed and the money has changed. But I still believe footballers take great pride in the game."

Lofthouse was given £10 as his signing-on fee. He said: "I know £10 doesn't seem much these days but it was four times more than my Dad was getting per week as a coal bagger for the Co-Op."

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits