Charlton pays tribute to Lofthouse
Sir Bobby Charlton has hailed Nat Lofthouse as "a leader'' and `"a talisman'' in his tribute to the legendary England centre-forward who has died on Saturday aged 85.
Lofthouse, who scored 30 goals in 33 appearances for England and 255 goals in more than 450 appearances for Bolton between 1946 and 1960, died peacefully in his sleep at his nursing home last night.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme, Charlton said: "One of the highlights of my year is when I go to Bolton and see people like Tommy Banks, Roy Hartle and, of course, Nat.
"I was ever so pleased to see them because I feel they gave so much colour to the game at a time when football was about strength more than anything else, and Nat was as strong as anyone.
"The first time I ever saw a professional game Nat was playing as a centre-forward and they were talking about him as this youngster who had just burst onto the scene, and he was just fantastic.
"He was a leader, he had fantastic ability in the air, and he was strong, but he was also a talisman. He 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, that he isn't with us any more because he was a fantastic credit to the game.''
Lofthouse was one of the most feared centre-forwards of his generation, renowned for his strength and finishing ability on the ground and in the air.
He became known as the 'Lion of Vienna' after a goalscoring, match-winning - and pain-defying - performance in England's 3-2 win over a fearsome Austria side in 1952.
The other match for which he was synonymous was the 1958 FA Cup final when he scored twice in Bolton's 2-0 victory over 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. Tommy Finney and Stan Matthews were wingers and outside the influence of the 18-yard box," Charlton said. But Nat Lofthouse, 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.''
After finishing playing, Lofthouse remained at the Bolton in a number of off-field positions including chief coach, chief scout, caretaker manager and club president, a role in which he remained until his death.
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, described Lofthouse as "a true legend''.
"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,'' Clarke said. "He was a model professional and showed the kind of commitment to his home town and to his local club that we don't do these days.''