Town's tribute to its greatest soccer son

Nat LOFTHOUSE brought Bolton to a standstill once again as thousands turned out to pay their final respects to the town's greatest ever footballer yesterday afternoon.

Lofthouse was already a legend when people lined the streets in 1958 to welcome their hero home after a two-goal match-winning display in the FA Cup final.

Yesterday the mood was sombre as the funeral of the man known as the "Lion of Vienna" took place at Bolton Parish Church in the town centre.

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The service was attended by 500 invited guests as well as members of the public, while speakers were erected so thousands more could listen outside.

Lofthouse, a fearsome centre-forward who scored 255 goals in 452 league appearances for his home-town club and 30 in 33 games for England, died on January 15 at the age of 85. A number of prominent figures from the footballing world were in attendance, including his great contemporary Sir Tom Finney, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Another Bolton sport star, super lightweight world boxing champion Amir Khan, also attended, while current Wanderers captain Kevin Davies and manager Owen Coyle helped carry the coffin. A guard of honour was formed by surviving members of the 1958 cup final team while eulogies were read by Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.

Taylor, a boyhood Bolton fan and former Trotters player, said: "It is a great honour and privilege to pay tribute to your hero. He would have loved it today – he loved football and he loved Bolton."

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Lofthouse signed for Bolton on September 4, 1939 – the day after Britain declared war – and played for the club until being forced to retire through injury in 1960.

The "Lion of Vienna" title was bestowed upon him by a journalist after a remarkable two-goal performance for England against an acclaimed Austria side in 1952.