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Nat Lofthouse, Lion of Vienna, 1925- 2011

17 Jan 2011 09:33:16

Nat Lofthouse, Lion of Vienna, 1925- 2011

As a boy, he idolised Nat Lofthouse. Then, as an aspiring footballer, he was coached by him. Here STEVE CURRY pays personal tribute to one of this country's greatest centre forwards, a fearless figure from a magical period for English football who died on Saturday, aged 85. Modern managers sometimes talk of their players having put in 'a good shift at the coal face'; Nat Lofthouse actually did. Winning smile: Nat Lofthouse with the 1958 FA Cup he won for Bolton with two goals, the second of whichcame when he bundled Manchester United keeper Harry Gregg into the net During the Second World War, Lofthouse's match days would begin at 3.30am, when he would catch a tram to work for an eight-hour shift underground. He would emerge into the daylight to be met by a Bolton coach, who would take him to Burnden Park to play 90 minutes for his beloved Wanderers. The 'Lion of Vienna' will be remembered for his phenomenal scoring record for England - 30 goals from 33 games - but also as a symbol of a post-war generation of footballers who painstakingly softened their boots with dubbin and went home with the imprint from the lacing in the ball on their foreheads. Head boy: Lofthouse scored a sensational 30 goals in 33 games for England Even his full Christian name, Nathaniel, somehow conjures up a vision of a man of steel, of centre partings, bulging biceps and thighs like the trunks of an oak tree. Nat was my boyhood hero, even though Bolton were only my 'second' team. My young heart lay with Manchester United, but who I wanted to be was incorporated in this man who could head the ball as if firing it from a gun and who leapt like a salmon. Honour: Lofthouse was awarded an OBE in 1994 Bolton, the town and the football club, was his life. He joined them as a 14 year-old amateur and died this weekend after more than two decades as club president, having also been manager, chief scout and coach. It was in the last of these roles that he coached me, by then a teenager hoping to become a professional. During a 21-year playing career, Nat scored 285 goals and was captain at two FA Cup finals. The first, the 'Matthews Final' of 1953, ended in 4-3 defeat by Blackpool; five years later he scored both goals as Bolton beat Manchester United 2-0, and famously knocked out the United keeper Harry Gregg while bundling the second goal over the line. Lofthouse himself was knocked unconscious scoring his greatest goal, showing astonishing bravery to defy Austrian thuggery and help England to a 3-2 win in Vienna in what was viewed as an unofficial European championship final. It earned him the 'Lion of Vienna' tag. That England team was one of legends, players whose reputations have survived for nearly 60 years, and their approach was simple. As Len Shackleton put it: 'Billy Wright won the ball and passed to me. I gave it to Stanley Matthews, who ran down the wing and centred for Nat Lofthouse, who scored.' VIDEO: Football mourns Nat Lofthouse...  'A strong and loyal leader'... Bobby Charlton leads tributes to late Bolton legend Nat Lofthouse Legend Nat Lofthouse, the 'Lion of Vienna', has died aged 85  Explore more:People: Harry Gregg Places: Vienna, United Kingdom


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