Celebrating The Memory of Nat Lofthouse OBE
The Lion of Vienna (August 27, 1925 to January 15, 2011)
An England international, Nat Lofthouse played his entire club career for his hometown club, Bolton Wanderers, scoring 255 goals in 452 league appearances.
Capped 33 times by the Three Lions, Lofthouse picked up the nickname ‘the Lion of Vienna’ after his two goals against Austria and represented England in the 1954 World Cup.
Winning the FA Cup with Wanderers in 1958, Lofthouse is regarded as a Bolton club legend, with a statue dedicated to his achievements set to be unveiled ahead of the Queens Park Rangers game on Saturday 24th August, with proceedings starting at 10.30am with a number of former Wanderers players and Nat's family in attendance.
Nat Lofthouse proudly served not only just his Club, Bolton Wanderers, but also England. Appearing in 503 matches for the Club he scored 285 goals, later becoming manager and at his death, Club President. In 33 matches for England he scored 30 goals, including the famous goals in Vienna against Austria which earned him the title "Lion of Vienna".
Nat's passing was announced late in the evening of Saturday 15 January 2011, just hours after Wanderers had been in Barclays Premier League action against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
As word spread of Nat's death, the tributes began to pour in. Indeed, on the Sunday and for the immediate days after, the Reebok Stadium became a place of pilgrimage for supporters who felt it appropriate to leave items of memorabilia and bouquets of flowers at the front of the stadium outside the club's book of remembrance.
A book of condolence was opened and page upon page was filled with the heartfelt tributes from those who wanted to share their experiences of Nat and thank him for his service to the football club and the town of Bolton.
Those who couldn't make it down to Macron Stadium sent in their acknowledgements via email, and the messages that landed in the inbox stretched from all over the world as far as New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
On the pitch, it was nine days after Nat's passing when Bolton Wanderers first had the opportunity to commemorate his life. Nat was the champion of Bolton and, fittingly, the visitors for the live televised game were the champions of England, Chelsea.
Before the game a number of events took place, including a minute's silence and a wreath-laying in front of the Nat Lofthouse Stand, with the two captains for the game, Kevin Davies and John Terry both participating.
Prior to the match, the club had produced a special commemorative matchday programme, which sold almost three times the usual amount for a home Premier League fixture.
Nat's state funeral at Bolton Parish Church at the end of January was attended by thousands of mourners, both from the football world and outside.
These included the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Charlton and Mark Hughes, along with former England team-mate and good friend for many years Sir Tom Finney. Also in attendance were former Bolton Wanderers managers Colin Todd and Sam Allardyce.
Then club chairman Phil Gartside and PFA chairman Gordon Taylor paid their tributes when reading their eulogies out to the congregation, with hundreds upon hundreds listening outside the church with the service being relayed via a speaker system.
Gartside's tribute to the great man included the following words: "The first time I met Nat was in 1987 when I became involved with the club. I never saw him play, but as a regular Wanderers supporter from 1963 I read and heard a lot about Nat the footballer. I learned what a great player he was and what a fantastic ambassador for club, town and country he proved to be.
"I was so excited to meet the great man, but didn't know what to expect. From the first minute, I was completely at ease. In his customary manner, he greeted me, warmly shaking my hand, saying, 'nice to meet you cocker, just call me Lofty'.
"I am proud and I feel very privileged that I got to spend time with him, talk football, listen to his stories and share his memories."
Nat Lofthouse will simply be remembered as Bolton Wanderers’ greatest ever player.