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Lofthouse's funeral is a sad moment for all of England, says Coyle

Bolton manager Owen Coyle said yesterday that he expects football supporters throughout England to feel a sense of sadness when Nat Lofthouse is laid to rest today.

Players past and present as well as leading figures in the game's administration will attend the legendary striker's funeral and thanksgiving service at Bolton Parish Church before a private committal.

Coyle, who now manages the club Lofthouse used to play for, said: "I was very fortunate and privileged to have met not just a footballing great but a terrific man, a very humble man. He will be sadly missed by everyone at the club and I suggest everyone in England. He was so patriotic about playing for his country.

"It is important that while there is a sadness we remember everything Nat Lofthouse did bring, not only to Bolton Wanderers but to football. I will always remember him with a smile on my face."

On Monday night, Bolton fans paid homage to Lofthouse, who died on 15 January at the age of 85, at their home match with Chelsea when a minute's silence was immaculately observed.

Club captain Kevin Davies and his opposite number John Terry laid floral tributes in front of the Nat Lofthouse stand. It was a humbling experience for England defender Terry. "I was asked on Thursday and it was a pleasure and a real honour for me to lay the wreath with Kevin and pay my respects," he said. "Nat Lofthouse was not only a legend here but all over the country."

Lofthouse scored 255 goals for Bolton between 1946 and 1960. He represented England 33 times, hitting the target 30 times and became widely known as the "Lion of Vienna" after his performance in a 3-2 win against Austria in 1952.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association and a former Wanderers player, will both give readings at Lofthouse's funeral service.

Gartside added: "The club has been inundated by messages of condolence not only from our own supporters but those from clubs around the country and football enthusiasts from all over the globe.

"It has been very apparent over the last week just how highly respected Nat was in the world of sport.

"We will miss him and mourn his passing but we will never forget him. He has left us great memories of great times."