This article is in celebration of the life of Nat Lofthouse OBE 1925-2011
Born in Bolton on 27th August 1925 Nat was the youngest of 4 sons and with a modest upbringing he learnt from an early age how difficult it was to learn everything about football apart from putting the team first before you. Nat broke into the Bolton Schools X1 team and with his mentor Bert Cole promising a new bike if he scored a hat-trick on his debut, the young talented Nat helped the team beat Bury Town 7-1. He was soon ridding his new bike as he scored all seven goals and from the early age Nat never looked back on what turned out to be a fantastic career with Bolton Wanderers and England.
Taken from "The Lion of Vienna" Nat Lofthouse
"All I ever wanted to do was to play for Bolton Wanderers. I suppose, in a way, everything that has come along on top of that has been icing on the cake. I've had some marvellous times and met some marvellous people on the way to my 50th anniversary. There have been bad days, there have been sad days. But looking back there isn't much I would have changed. Think of the men I've played with and against. Those great figures from the distant past when I first signed on as a nervous 14-year-old. Taylor, Hunt, Westwood, Atkinson, Goslin, Rodwell, Woodward and the rest. Then the men who took me on those two romantic roads to Wembley, first in 1953 and then in 1958. How we wore the white shirt of Bolton with pride! Fine individual players all linked together by on common bond. Bolton Wanderers." Found memories of the Great Nat Lofthouse
One can only look back at the life and times of Nat with ore, a boyhood dream to play for his local team. Not many players will ever associate themselves with one club for a whole career, playing, management and President.
My own meeting of Nat couldn't have been better, a meeting of chance. Bolton had just thrashed Preston 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff in the 2000-01 play-offs to steer their way to the Premiership. I made my way out of the Stadium to join in the celebrations when I noticed a figure triumphantly thrusting his fists in the air surrounded by joyous fans. Waving of scarves and banners soon opened up and there was Nat with the broadest smile you could possible imagine with joy and adulation, such was the love for his club.
I was never fortunate enough to see Nat play as he retired in 1960 almost year before I was born. Looking back in my early years I had read about Nat in one of his finest hours in a book called The Big Book of Football Champions published on 1959. I was soon to learn about the 1958 FA Cup triumph with headlines such as "was Lofthouse's second goal a foul?". Looking on in amazement at the painted photographs of all the great players of that era such as the late Eddie Hopkinson diving in full glory. The book and its images may in time fade, but the legacy of Nat Lofthouse and the passion for his beloved Bolton Wanderers will live on forever.
A working class hero and one that will never be forgotten.
Nat's career: Bolton Wanderers: 452 appearances scoring 255 goals Debut: March 1941 v Bury scoring 2 goals in a 5-1 win England: 33 internationals scoring 30 goals