Sunday, 16 January 2011

Nat Lofthouse: Great Player and Man (somewhat maligned)

There have been some great BLOG posts about our Chris this week and whilst I will prob. not resist the temptation of adding a few of my own, there is plenty to get on along with in the meantime.

Therefore, as in the case of Bobby Smith a while ago, I would like to add a few words about the passing of Nat Lofthouse.
Nat was a centre forward that no one relished marking. He was as tough as old boots and the heavy leather ball he regularly stuffed into the opposition's net.
He was a great physical player (like Bobby Smith) both on the ground and in the air but also had great skill. For all of his hard man qualities he had the reputation of being a down to earth, straight gentleman.
He was a great servant of Bolton, his only club, as a player, coach, manager and President and proud to be a one club man; and he was also a formidable England centre forward and played in some historical games.
Unlike Bobby, whom I saw many times in games over the years, Nat was a little before my time. He retired at the end of my first season at the Valley in 1958.
However, he did play in the first live Cup Final I watched on the TV in 1958 against Man United.
It was the first final after the Munich Air Crash and Man United understandably had the nation's sympathy going into the final.
That meant that Nat was ultimately vilified for having the audacity to charge United's goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net or their second goal. Of course, shoulder to shoulder charging was fair game in those days (before the fast developing non-contact game we have today).
However, many felt that he had charged Gregg in the back, not the shoulder, as he was knocked into the back of the net with the ball. Given the emotional nature of the day, everywhere apart from Bolton seemed to make him the prime anti-hero of the day. I have read that he subsequently said he had fouled Gregg. However, Nat was only guilty of being a 100% man the like of which most clubs, including our own, would savour, and was merely doing his job for his paltry maximum wage pay.
What is a shame is that many of my generation had that tainted view of Nat and some do to today, which is totally unjust as he was such a great player and servant of the game.
He will be sadly missed in the game and especially at Bolton.

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