'Lion of Vienna' Lofthouse shone bright among the golden generation

Legend, leader and loyal are just three of the words employed to describe Nat Lofthouse following his death at the weekend.

The 'Lion of Vienna', who scored a phenomenal tally of 30 goals in 33 appearances for England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at his nursing home.

Aside from being a robust, powerful forward, Lofthouse will predominantly be remembered for being a one-club man, a rarity in this day and age given the liberal – and lucrative – movement of players between clubs.

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Lofthouse played for his hometown club Bolton between 1946 and 1960 before retiring from the game with a knee injury, playing more than 500 matches in which he scored 255 league goals and a further 30 in cup competitions.

Reflecting on the man and player, close friend Sir Bobby Charlton said: "He was a leader, he had fantastic ability in the air, and he was strong, but he was also a talisman.

"I played four or five games with England at the end of his career and I felt he was the one who was in charge, he was the leader.

"I'm really sorry, and anybody in this part of the world will be very sorry, he isn't with us any more because he was a fantastic credit to the game."

He earned the sobriquet 'Lion of Vienna' following his performance in England's 3-2 win over Austria in 1952 when he scored the winner despite being elbowed in the face, tackled from behind and brought down by the goalkeeper.

The other match for which he was synonymous was the 1958

FA Cup final when he scored twice in Bolton's 2-0 win over post-Munich Manchester United, controversially barging goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net in the process of scoring one of his goals.

He belonged to a golden generation of England players along with the likes of Sir Tom Finney and Sir Stanley Matthews whose time came before the 1966 World Cup success.

"You have to put him in with those two great players," added Charlton. "You just put the ball in there at any height and he was so brave. He just scored phenomenal goals in the air. He was a great player without any question. In his day, if you were a centre forward you had to do more than score goals; you had to lead and you had to be tough.

"In those days football was a hard, tough game. It wasn't like today where they glorify everything.

"The pitches were bad, the ball was heavy, the equipment was awful, but he loved the game of football, and he was ever so proud to be a part of it."

Former Arsenal manager Don Howe is another who played alongside Lofthouse towards the end of his international career, recalling not only an inspirational player but also a gentleman of the game.

"He was not only a great player, he was a great character," said Howe, who played for West Brom and Arsenal during his career.

"On the pitch – wonderful, powerful, put the ball in the box and he will do the job for you.

"Off the pitch, I was one of the young caps then. He would come up to you and say 'hello son, how are you doing?' He would give you a real gee up, that's how he was."

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside remarked: "We will miss him, but we will celebrate his life, his legacy and great times that he brought to Bolton Wanderers."

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, also described Lofthouse, who earned an OBE in 1994, as "a true legend".

Clarke said: "We don't see many players of that kind these days and the loyalty to one club which continued long after his playing career finished. He was a model professional."