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Wanderers Ways. Neil Thompson 1961-2021

Nat Lofthouse OBE - RIP


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Sorry for the length of this piece but the great man deserves every tribute.

 

I was taken to my first match at Burnden Park in December 1949 as a 5 year old. Sadly the passage of time has limited my memories of seeing Nat play, but an extract from Percy M. Young?s ?Bolton Wanderers? (1961) has always stuck in my memory ? even though I was actually at that game too :-

 

?Those who have attended Burnden Park have seen English football, sometimes at its best, but always with the native characteristics prominent. For the album of respected memories I would retain the match between the Wanderers and Manchester City, played ? appropriately enough ? on November 5th 1960. Under scowling skies, with ancient Pacifics passing threateningly over the heads of the crowd on the railway embankment, with crackers and catherine wheels in occasional and spirited combustion, the two teams played a fierce scherzo over the mud. Skill there was in plenty ? if only in the way that twenty-two players contrived not merely to stand but also to move with speed and manipulate the ball; but skill engaged with vigour. The tackling was of a ferocity unknown in Barcelona, but regarded as axiomatic among the devotees at Burnden. It was, wrote W.R. Taylor in the Guardian, the sort of ?blood and thunder match that no-one dared leave early in case he missed the odd murder or sending off. ...... Bolton knows what it likes, however, and this is it. The purists may rage and talk about the lost arts of English football, but the fact remains that the gate was almost double the average for the season so far. There is a moral somewhere.?

At inside-right for Bolton that day was Nat Lofthouse, in such a position for the first time in ten years ? and in the season following that which, officially, saw his retirement. Outside Lofthouse was a new boy, sixteen-year-old Francis Lee, playing in his first match. Lofthouse?s function was tutorial ? to see the boy through the rigours of a local Derby. The manner in which he conducted his function, now counselling, now encouraging, now putting the ball across for the outside-right to get the feel of it, was an inspiration : here was a player who cared for the game, for his club, and for the future. The attitude was symbolised by the final goal, which gave Bolton a welcome 3-1 win : Lee took a corner, and Lofthouse, rising high above both friend and foe, nodded the ball past Trautmann. That action took the years away, and joined others of equal claim in the annals of eternity.

There is English football; there are English footballers; and Lofthouse is, perhaps, in our time the most English of them all.?

 

At the end of that chapter in the book, Mr. Young reproduced a 13-verse folk-poem ?Lofthouse Saga? written by a Tonge Moor man around the time of Nat?s retirement from playing. It?s worth reading if you can find it, or I can reproduce it here if anyone is interested.

 

From the epilogue of the book :-

 

?The passing of Lofthouse illuminates the point. He was an individual rather than an individualist, the last essential piece in an interlocking mechanism. Spectators paid their money, I suspect, not to see Lofthouse but to see Lofthouse as a part of Bolton Wanderers, or of England. Equally I suspect Lofthouse saw it this way too. He had a sense of mission that transcended any delight in personal virtuosity.?

 

I could put it no better.

 

I had a problem typing those last two sentences as Nat?s obituary appeared on the BBC lunchtime news. I make no apology for the tears in my eyes.

 

Nat Lofthouse RIP

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Guest DARWENWHITE

legend in every possible way

remember meeting him at the club open day in 1984

 

a sad loss for bolton

 

RIP 'Lion of Vienna'

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In a strange way, Nat'a always felt like one of the family. The stories my grandparents used to tell and the esteem in which everybody held him. It's a very sad day today. He was my Grandad's favourite player and my Grandma always has a twinkle in her eye when she talks about him. If I'm lucky enough to have Grandkids one day, I'll tell them the story of the Lion of Vienna!

 

Echoing the thoughts of others on here, I think we should have a statue of Nat. If the club can't afford it at the moment, then as fans we should be allowed to pay for it ourselves. I can't think of many people who wouldn't put their hands in their pockets.

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I had the chance to meet him once, just before the opening of the Reebok and he was signing artist impressions of the new stadium. He shook my hand and said thanks for coming. I was so surprised by his humility and said I'm just so happy to be here and thanks for all you've done for the club.

 

RIP Nat Lofthouse OBE.

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Thank you Nat for the memories and pleasure you gave me watching Bolton as a boy. I count myself lucky to have seen you play. You will be greatly missed.

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