Charlton leads tributes to 'Lion of Vienna' Lofthouse
LEGEND, leader and loyal were just three of the words employed to describe Nat Lofthouse following the death yesterday of the 'Lion of Vienna', who scored a phenomenal tally of 30 goals in 33 appearances for England.
Aside from being a robust, powerful forward, Lofthouse will predominantly be remembered for being a one-club man, rare in this day and age given the liberal movement of players between clubs.
Lofthouse played for his hometown club Bolton between 1946 and 1960 before retiring from the game with a knee injury, playing more than 500 matches in which he scored 255 league goals and a further 30 in cup competitions.
Reflecting on the man and player, close friend Bobby Charlton said: "He was a leader, he had fantastic ability in the air, and he was strong, but he was also a talisman."
Lofthouse earned the sobriquet 'Lion of Vienna' following his performance in England's 3-2 win over Austria in 1952, when he scored the winner despite being elbowed in the face, tackled from behind and brought down by the goalkeeper.
The other match for which he was synonymous was the 1958 FA Cup final when he scored twice in Bolton's 2-0 victory over Manchester United, controversially barging goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net in the process of scoring one of his goals.
Lofthouse belonged to a golden generation of England players along with the likes of Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews whose time came before the 1966 World Cup success.
"You have to put him in with those two great players," added Charlton. "You just put the ball in there at any height and he was so brave. He just scored phenomenal goals in the air. He was a great player without any question.
"In his day if you were a centre-forward you had to do more than score goals; you had to lead and you had to be tough. In those days football was a hard, tough game. It wasn't like today where they glorify everything.
"The pitches were bad, the ball was heavy, the equipment was awful, but he loved the game of football, and he was ever so proud to be a part of it."
Former Arsenal manager Don Howe, another who played alongside Lofthouse towards the end of his international career, recalled not only an inspirational player but also a gentleman of the game.
Lofthouse was 14 when he first signed for Bolton, a club for whom he was also chief coach, chief scout, caretaker manager and club president, the latter a position he held until his death, after hanging up his boots.