Nat Lofthouse statue unveiled at Bolton Wanderers' Reebok Stadium
The sculpture of one Wanderer's greatest legends was finally revealed during a moving ceremony on Saturday.
The lasting tribute — paid for with funds raised by fans and sponsors — was constructed in time for what would have been the striker’s 88th birthday tomorrow (TUESDAY).
Bolton Wanderers club chaplain Phil Mason was first to give his thoughts on the finished sculpture.
Mr Mason told fans: "The statistics really say everything we need to know about Nat — 503 appearances and 285 goals for this club and of course, for England his 33 appearances and 30 goals.
"He was the Lion of Vienna and his last words: 'I've got the ball now, it's a bit worn but I've got it ' are enshrined around this statue. This will now be a sacred place for the club."
The £100, 000 statue is based on a photograph of Nat carrying a ball onto the pitch, and has been designed by artist Sean Hedges-Quinn — who has previously been commissioned to design statues of famous football figures Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Alf Ramsey.
Mr Hedges-Quinn said: “It feels like it has been a big weight lifted off my shoulders but creating this statue has been an incredibly enjoyable experience.
“Bolton Wanderers and their fans are known for their passion and they expected the statue to do justice for Nat, and I really hope I’ve achieved that.
“I never met him myself but I feel as though I’ve got to know him over the past 18 months. There have definitely been challenging moments but I’ve loved it. This is a very emotional moment for me.”
Whites chairman Phil Gartside also gave speeches before Whites owner Eddie Davies unveiled the statue.
Mr Gartside said: “It feels fantastic to finally unveil it and it has been a privilege to see it grow. I think Sean has really captured Nat’s likeness in that the statue stands strong and committed, like he was.
“I think everyone can learn a lot from Nat for his commitment and loyalty, and that’s not just in football but in life too.”
But it was Jeff Lofthouse, Nat’s son, who gave the crowd the final word on the statue's likeness to his father.
Jeff said: “Firstly I think the statue really captures the body power and movement of my father. But what I’m really pleased with is his face and my sister Viviene agreed.
“I really hope it will inspire youngsters to play football and perhaps encourage their grandfathers to share their memories of dad. Even if people say, ‘I’ll meet you by the Nat Lofthouse statue’, that’ll be great too.”
The campaign to build the statue was launched in January last year and more than £35,000 has been raised by Whites fans, who flocked to the unveiling before Saturday’s match.
Fan William Jones, aged 40, from Westhoughton, said: “I am impressed with it but I think it’s a long-time overdue. I think it means he has now got the statue he deserves. It also brings a bit of Burnden Park up to Horwich.”
Catherine Wilson, aged 52, from Egerton, added: “I actually think it’s really good and has captured Nat’s likeness. I think it’s good for the fans too who have wanted this for a long time.”
The ceremony also included a dedication by Canon Alan Wolstenscroft, who took part in Nat’s funeral service following his death in January 2011.
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