27 Aug 2013
In - Football

Guardian football writer Scott Murray gives us five reasons why Bolton Wanderers' Lion Of Vienna, Nat Lofthouse, should be voted the greatest captain in Football League history…

1. A local hero who kept it real
Lofthouse lost the early part of his career to the war, and, having retired in 1960, missed out on the abolition of the maximum wage by a year. Yet he always considered himself a lucky man: fortunate that his £10 per-week wage was quadruple that of his dad, who bagged coal for the Co-op, and fortunate that he was able to escape a life down the mines, where he worked for four years as a Bevin Boy. Never arrogant or flashy, he could still be seen on the bus when he was winning England caps and FA Cups, a genuine modesty that endeared him to the fans.

2. The greatest one-club striker ever
A one-club man, Lofthouse represented the team he supported as a young boy as player, manager, trainer, scout and president. He had to wait until four days after his 21st birthday to make his full league debut, and he didn't hang about, scoring twice against Chelsea. He continued to terrorise defences relentlessly during a 14-year career, ending the season as Bolton's leading marksman 11 times. Lofthouse finished his career with 285 goals to his name in all competitions. No one-club man has scored as many in the top flight.

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3. Winning the Cup for Bolton
Lofthouse was the hero of Bolton's greatest post-war hour. In the 1958 FA Cup final, he made a captain's contribution, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Manchester United. He ghosted in to prod a shot home after three minutes, before adding a second, which saw him bundle both ball and United keeper Harry Gregg into the net. The challenge would never be permitted these days, it's true, but no United player questioned the decision to let the goal stand - and it's often forgotten how brave Lofthouse must have been to go in that hard anyway, as he was playing that day with a surgical pin in an injured shoulder. The pain didn't stop him lifting the Cup with a broad smile.

4. Amazing FA Cup scoring feats
Lofthouse tasted personal as well as team success in the FA Cup (which, back in the 50s, was still by far the most important competition in the land). He scored in every round in 1953, including a goal within 75 seconds of the start of the final, though Blackpool's Stanley Matthews would have something to say about the result of that particular match. It was still a staggering achievement, though: he's one of only 12 players to manage it in 142 years, and only Charlie Wayman of Preston (1954), Jeff Astle of West Brom (1968), and Peter Osgood of Chelsea (1970) have done it since.

5. Player of the season, Lion of Vienna
Lofthouse had been awarded the prestigious Football Writers Player of the Year title before that 1953 Cup final (which would go down as the Matthews Final). Mainly because nobody had scored more goals in league and cup that season, but also in recognition of his strike against Austria for England the previous year. He picked the ball up on the halfway line, and despite being elbowed in the face and kicked from behind, powered down the pitch and hammered home before being knocked out by the keeper. The goal earned Lofthouse the nickname 'The Lion of Vienna', and was one of the most celebrated England goals of all time - scored by Bolton's most celebrated son.  

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