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Legend Nat is top of the pops

NAT Lofthouse has been named the greatest Bolton Wanderers player of all time.

The legendary Lion of Vienna, one of the mightiest of all England centre-forwards and the town's most famous sporting son, has long been revered by generations of supporters as the brightest star in the galaxy of talent to have worn the famous white shirt.

But his status as the greatest of them all was given official approval on Sunday night, when he topped a fans' poll to find the top 50 Wanderers legends.

Thousands of supporters, including Bolton Evening News readers, nominated their favourites with modern day heroes giving the old-timers a run for their money.

But it was the lion-hearted Lofthouse - the two-goal captain of the team that beat Manchester United in the 1958 FA Cup Final and devoted Boltonian whose association with Wanderers stretches back more than 65 years - who emerged as the all-time favourite at a star-studded gathering at a BWFC Legends Dinner at the Reebok.

Jay Jay Okocha, captain of the present day Wanderers, finished runner-up with John McGinlay, who won a special place in the hearts of Bolton fans in the Nineties, third.

Receiving the award from his old England team-mate, Sir Tom Finney, the grand old Wanderer paid tribute to his team-mates and to the Burnden Park supporters.

"I'm really and truly honoured and grateful to everyone," he said.

"I have been a lucky lad. I can't say enough about the Bolton crowd. They made me and helped me and I played with some great players, nice guys.

"Anybody could have played centre-forward with the players I had around me."

McGinlay, who flew in from America to attend the event, said. "Nat is not just one of Bolton's legends but he is one of the all-time greats of English football.

"I suppose 'Sir' Nat Lofthouse is the highest honour you could give him personally, but this will come very close to that, I'm sure."

Now aged 79, Nat Lofthouse OBE has retired from his daily involvement, but, as club president and honorary director, he remains the respected figurehead and is still a regular at the Reebok.

He served Wanderers in every capacity - as trainer, coach, manager and chief scout - but it was as a brave centre-forward for his home town club and the country he represented with pride that he secured his place as the most famous and most influential figure in the club's 130-year history.

In 21 years, from September 4, 1939, to December 17, 1960, he represented Wanderers in 452 league games (all in the old First Division) scoring 255 goals and appeared in 51 cup ties, adding a further 30 goals. He won 33 England caps and scored 30 goals.

He was given his Lion of Vienna nickname in May, 1952 after scoring twice to spearhead a 3-2 England victory over Austria, who were the unofficial champions of Europe.

He had offers from other clubs and was one of the first England internationals to be offered huge sums to play in Italy, but he remained a one club man. "I was never tempted to leave Bolton," he said.

Legends Roll of Honour:

1 Nat Lofthouse (1939-60)

2 Jay Jay Okocha (2002-present)

3 John McGinlay (1992-98)

4 Gudni Bergsson

5 Frank Worthington

6 Eddie Hopkinson

7 Paul Jones

8 Peter Reid

9 Keith Branagan

10 Jussi Jaaskelainen

11 Freddie

Hill

12 Youri Djorkaeff

13 Tommy Banks

14 Andy Walker

15 Alan Thompson

16 Bruno N'Gotty

17 Roy Greaves

18 Roy Hartle

19 Per Frandsen

20 Seamus McDonagh

21 Sam Allardyce

22 Jason McAteer

23 Henrik Pedersen

24 Alan Stubbs

25 Radhi Jaidi

26 John Byrom

27 Eidur Gudjohnsen

28 Peter Thompson

29 Willie Moir

30 Kevin Davies

31 Ricardo Gardner

32 David Jack

33 Neil Whatmore

34 Tony Kelly

35 Warwick Rimmer

36 Phil Brown

37 Jimmy Phillips

38 Barry Cowdrill

39 David Lee

40 Ivan Campo

41 Johnny Wheeler

42 Kevin Nolan

43 Malcolm Barrass

44 Ray Parry

45 Wyn Davies

46 Francis Lee

47 Dean Holdsworth

48 Syd Farrimond

49 John Thomas

50 Florent Laville

Best goalkeeper: Eddie Hopkinson

Best defender: Gudni Bergsson

Best midfielder: Jay Jay Okocha.

Best striker: John McGinlay.

Best manager: Sam Allardyce.

Greatest goal: Frank Worthington (v Ipswich Town, April 1979)



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