THE biographer of Bolton Wanderers legend Nat Lofthouse has urged the game’s administrators to offer more support to elderly players as further evidence emerges about former footballers suffering brain injury diseases later in life.

Writer Matt Clough’s comments follow criticism from the family of 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who said football needs to “address the scandal” of dementia in football.

The ex-Manchester United and England midfielder died in October, aged 78, after suffering from dementia and prostate cancer.

Stiles is the fifth member of England’s World Cup-winning squad to have been diagnosed with the brain injury disease.

Bolton-born Lofthouse died in 2011 aged 85 after suffering from dementia.

“Perhaps more than any other English player, Nat was known for his heading ability,” said Mr Clough, who wrote Lofty: Nat Lofthouse, England’s Lion of Vienna. “The training regime for headers during the ‘40s and ‘50s involved stringing several of the heavy leather balls from the stands at Burnden Park and having players repeatedly jump and head them as hard as they could and if that sounds brutal, it’s because it was.”

On Tuesday, Stiles’ family issued a statement which said there was “a need for urgent action” and that older players had “largely been forgotten”, with many in ill-health.

Mr Clough said: “Everything we now know about the causes of dementia means there’s no question that heading a solid leather ball thousands upon thousands of times would have contributed to dementia-based illnesses later in life.

“Mercifully, Nat’s illness didn’t strike as early in his life as it did for other high profile players like Jeff Astle and Danny Blanchflower, so he was probably less aware of the effects it was having on him.”

The Daily Mail have launched a campaign for football to tackle what it calls “the dementia scandal” affecting ex-professionals.

The newspaper identified Lofthouse as one of 28 well-known footballers who have died or been diagnosed with dementia in recent years.

The campaign is being led by ex-England striker Chris Sutton, whose father Mike, also a former footballer, is dying of dementia.

Both the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the Football Association (FA) have backed calls for more research and said they will support former players.

Mr Clough added: “It’s high time the PFA began to do more to both support former players, men like Nat who spent their lives bringing joy to thousands, and to safeguard young players from future potential illnesses.”