Manchester

Nat Lofthouse funeral in Bolton attracts thousands

Nat Lofthouse funeral
Image caption Crowds gathered outside Bolton Parish Church

Thousands of people gathered for the funeral of former Bolton Wanderers and England football legend Nat Lofthouse.

People lined the streets outside Bolton Parish Church for the service of thanksgiving, while hundreds of mourners gathered inside.

Mr Lofthouse, known as the Lion of Vienna, died on 15 January aged 85.

Wanderers supporters were able to hear the service from loudspeakers in the church grounds.

Earlier, the funeral cortege travelled up Bank Street and into Bradshawgate before turning into Silverwell Street and heading to the parish church.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle, captain Kevin Davies and Wigan chairman Dave Whelan were among the pallbearers, while many football dignitaries also attended.

Davies, also a centre forward, said: "I have seen clips of him as a player and from living in the town and speaking to people he was an absolutely amazing footballer.

"He was an amazing person as well. He had a lot of time for people at the club and in the town and we'll miss him."

Other dignitaries included Manchester United director Sir Bobby Charlton, who, along with Lofthouse scored in a 5-0 win over the Soviet Union in 1958 in the first of the two matches they played together for England.

Sir Tom Finney, Sir Alex Ferguson, Trevor Brooking and former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis were among the other figures who attended.

Former Bolton managers to attend the service included Jimmy Armfield, Bruce Rioch, Colin Todd and Sam Allardyce.

The service was led by the Rev Matt Thompson, the vicar of Bolton.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and Gordon Taylor, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, gave eulogies during the service.

Addressing the congregation, Mr Gartside said he had "mixed emotions" about speaking and admitted to nerves.

"What could I say that hasn't already been said about Nat Lofthouse? A footballing great. A legend. An icon - the Lion of Vienna," said Mr Gartside.

"He'd probably look me in the eye and say 'don't be daft cocker, you'll be all right'."

'Lion of Vienna'

Mr Gartside spoke movingly of his memories of first meeting "Lofty" and the former striker's dedication to Bolton Wanderers and its fans.

"I am pleased and feel very privileged I got to spend time with the man, talk football and listen to his stories and share his memories.

"Nat was always about Bolton... One man, one club, one aim - to see us successful."

After the service the funeral cortege travelled through town to huge applause before going on to a private committal.

The centre-forward, who played more than 500 games and scored 285 times for the Trotters between 1946 and 1960, died in his sleep at a nursing home in Bolton.

Mr Lofthouse, who was known as the Lion of Vienna, had worked for Bolton in a number of roles after hanging up his boots.

Those roles included chief coach, chief scout, caretaker manager and club president, with Mr Lofthouse holding the last position until his death.

During his England career, he scored 30 goals in 33 matches.

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