Nat Lofthouse - Life And Times

Nat Lofthouse will simply be remembered as Bolton Wanderers’ greatest ever player.

Born and bred in the town, Nat remained loyal to the Trotters from the moment he signed on at the club as an amateur in 1939 until the day he passed away.

A brief glance at history books immediately indicates the nature of the service that he provided to Bolton Wanderers – Nat was a one club man who scored 255 goals in 452 League appearances.

He was the definition of the ‘old fashioned centre-forward’, a true working-class hero who was a gentleman off the field and a fearsome competitor on it.

Nat’s senior career started in the best possible fashion, scoring two goals on his debut in a victory over Bury aged just 15 years and 207 days.

He earned the first of 33 caps for England in 1950 and, as with his career at club level, he marked the occasion with a brace of goals, this time against Yugoslavia at Highbury.

But it was the famous victory over Austria two years later in which the soubriquet ‘the Lion of Vienna’ was coined. He scored two goals against a team considered to be the ‘unofficial world champions’, the second of which was scored after being knocked unconscious earlier in the game.

Those two strikes were from a total of 30 goals scored on the international scene - a ratio of almost one per game – which had been opened at the first possible opportunity when he scored a brace against Yugoslavia on his debut in November of 1950.

Nat’s scoring record is testament to his ability, and he remains joint fifth in England’s all-time scoring lists, where he is tied with Alan Shearer and Sir Tom Finney.

He played in two Cup Finals during his career at Bolton Wanderers and both were memorable occasions.

In 1953, he scored a goal but was on the losing side against Blackpool in the famous ‘Matthews’ Final’, having previously scored in each round en route to the final. He was voted English Footballer of the Year in the same year, while he topped the First Division goal scoring charts with 30 goals.

On May 3, 1958, almost five years to the day, Nat captained Bolton to triumph over Manchester United, a game in which he scored two goals, the second highly controversial as he barged United keeper Harry Gregg into the net.
Later that year, on 26 November 1958, Lofthouse made his final England appearance, against Wales, at the age of 33, and he officially retired from football in January 1960 after Bolton’s tie with Birmingham City because of an ankle injury.

Nat was never booked or sent off for England in 30 games, and the side only lost five times when he played: his presence made the side win games and his ability, coupled with his talent, was unquestioned

After retiring from playing football, Lofthouse became the assistant trainer at Bolton’s former stadium, Burnden Park, on 10 July 1961.

He was later appointed chief coach at the club in 1967 before taking over the manager’s position on 18 December 1968, following a brief stint as caretaker manager.

Before becoming Bolton's chief scout, he became an administrative manager at Burnden and in 1978; he became the club's executive manager.

In 1985, at the age of 60, Lofthouse became caretaker manager at the club again and became president in 1986.

Lofthouse received various honours since retiring from playing football; honours that included being made a Freeman of Bolton on 2 December 1989.

On 1 January 1994, he received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II and, on 18 January 1997, Bolton decided to name their East Stand at their newly built Reebok Stadium after him in recognition of his legendary status and commitment.

Although always associated with Burnden Park, Nat’s legend will live on long into the future at the Reebok Stadium.