Obituary: Nat Lofthouse

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Media captionIn 1952 Nat Lofthouse scored twice against Austria before being knocked unconscious - he later returned to the pitch

Nat Lofthouse OBE, who has died aged 85, was one of the post-war giants of football.

He made more than 450 appearances for Bolton Wanderers, and earned 33 caps for England.

He was a one-club man to his boots. A local Bolton lad, he was signed as a 14-year-old schoolboy by then-manager Charles Foweraker.

He played football during wartime while working as a "Bevin Boy" coal miner, and became professional in 1946.

But on the day he put pen to the paper, on 4 September 1939, he watched in bemusement as the whole Bolton team boarded military transport to join the war which had been declared the previous day.

By today's standards, the players of this era received what seems like a pittance for their efforts.

Lofthouse was given £10 as his signing-on fee. However, 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."

Lofthouse scored 255 goals for Bolton between 1946 and 1960, being prodigious with both feet and a brilliant header of the ball.

He played for Bolton twice at Wembley, the first time in the memorable so-called Matthews Cup Final of 1953, when Bolton were beaten 4-3 by Blackpool.

Then, five years later, he won a winner's medal after scoring the only two goals in the Cup Final against Manchester United.

Foul play

The second, controversially, resulted in United keeper Harry Gregg being knocked out as he ended up in the back of the net along with the ball, following Lofthouse's shoulder charge.

He later admitted it was a foul.

Image caption Lofthouse scored twice in an FA Cup final victory over Manchester United

His international record was equally impressive. He struck up a great understanding with wingers Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, and scored 30 goals in 33 games.

None was better than the the winning goal in 1952 against Austria following a run from the halfway line. It earned him the nickname "The Lion of Vienna".

Lofthouse's talent as a goalscorer was amply illustrated the same year, when he netted six for the Football League in a 7-1 victory over the Irish League at Wolverhampton.

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

"The game's changed out of all recognition to my day," he once said. "The strip's changed, the ball's changed and the money has changed.

"But I still believe footballers take great pride in the game. I don't know about me but people like Matthews and Finney would be seen as very good players, I've no doubt about that."

Few, even outside Bolton, would dispute the same opinion of Nat Lofthouse.

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