Nat Lofthouse OBE

January 1, 2000

 

Ken Masters’

Web Watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, when scanning the good number of football websites to find stories and articles that would be of up to date and topical interest, I am drawn to that which serves to remind us of the deep rooted history of the game, its legends and finest moments.

 

 

 

On Sunday morning, having returned from the long trip up to Carlisle and not having tuned in to any news or switched on to any sports channels, I found this on the FIFA website.

Former England international Nat Lofthouse QBE has died aged 85.

After quickly clicking onto the official Bolton Wanderers website I found a statement from Bolton Chairman Phil Garside:

“On behalf of everyone at Bolton Wanderers Football Club, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Nat’s family, who are very much in our thoughts at this time.

“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 j he brought to Bolton Wanderers.”

No one can argue with that and my mind quickly turned to Geoff Bradford and what he meant, and still means, to us at Bristol Rovers; one club man, same position on the field, natural goalscorer, England international, a legend in the game and a gentleman.

FIFA reported that Nat Lofthouse made more than 450 appearances for the Trotters, scoring 255 goals for the club between 1946 and 1960. He also represented England 33 times and scored 30 goals. With a record like that I wonder just what he would be worth in today’s market and how many in today’s market who are on contacts worth a lot of money by anybodies standard would be able to hold up a candle to the man.

Bolton announced Lofthouse had died peacefully in his sleep at his nursing home. Garside told the club’s website that after finishing playing, Lofthouse remained at the club in a number of off field positions including chief coach, chief scout, caretaker manager and club president, in which he remained until his death. I

This is what FIFA says of him; “Nat Lofthouse was one of the most feared centre forwards of his generation, renowned for his strength and finishing ability on the ground and in the air. He became known as the lion of Vienna’ after a goalscoring, match winning, and pain defying, performance in England’s 3-2 win over a fearsome Austria side in 1952. Lofthouse opened the scoring but was then subjected to some tough tackling throughout the rest of the game. He played on and was knocked unconscious in the process of netting the late winner.”

How does that compare with the game today, when players appear to dive and fall over at the slightest of touches. How many ankle grabbing, leg clutching, back rolling incidents do we see only for a player to resume without a care once a free kick or a penalty has been given and the further up the pyramid we go to internationals, World Cups and so forth the worse it seems to get. I well remember a manager saying to me in my playing days; “Never show him you’re hurt son.” How times have changed.

Thanks to my son, Gareth, who bought it for me as a present, I have on my shelves at home the DVD of the 1953 FA Cup final. This is what it says on the cover: “Bolton’s newly crowned footballer of the year Nat Lofthouse maintained his record of scoring in every round as early as the second minute and the Wanderers looked in control. Of course a certain Stanley Mathews of Blackpool had something to add to that in : one of the most famous finals of them all. I shall watch the game again when I have finished writing this article.

The other game for which he became synonymous was the 1958 FA Cup final, when he scored twice in Bolton’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United. Lofthouse controversially barged United goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net in the process of scoring one of his goals. Might have got a yellow, or even a red, card for doing that these days but in those days it was the sign of a tough and uncompromising centre forward.

 Nat Lofthouse retired in 1960 after a serious knee injury. He played at Bolton throughout his career, after signing for his hometown club at the age of 14. Lofthouse was reported to have been seriously ill last month.

 Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton says of him; “He was a leader, he had fantastic ability in the air, and he was strong, but he was also a talisman. I’m really sorry, and anybody in this part of the world will be very sorry, that he isn’t with us any more because he was a fantastic credit to the game.”

 Not just in the North West but anybody anywhere, Bobby, who loves the game of football as we all do. Rest well Nat Lofthouse, and thank you.

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