Harry Gregg was a colossus of a man both on the pitch and away from football.
Born in Tobermore, Gregg had a brief spell in the Irish League with both Linfield and Coleraine before embarking on a professional career with Doncaster Rovers in 1952 at the tender age of 18.
After playing a total of 99 games for Rovers, Manchester United signed him for £23,750 in December 1957. At the time it was a world record fee for a goalkeeper.
Two months later the Munich Air Disaster two, which claimed the lives of 23 people, saw him hailed a hero after he helped pull team-mates Sir Bobby Charlton, Dennis Viollet and Jackie Blanchflower clear from the burning wreckage. He also rescued a pregnant mother and her two-year-old daughter as well as Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby.
A tough, uncompromising stopper, Gregg was one of the stars of Peter Doherty’s unfancied Northern Ireland side that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Sweden in 1958.
For the next four years he was the first-choice ‘keeper at Old Trafford until a succession of injuries blighted his career and he eventually departed United after making 247 appearances to take up a player-coaching role at Stoke City.
Injuries again curtailed his game time on the pitch and he played just two games for the Potters before retiring from the game in 1967.
After hanging up his boots, he first ventured into management with Shrewsbury Town, followed by stints at Swansea Town and Crewe Alexandra before returning to Manchester United in 1978 as goalkeeping coach under then manager Dave Sexton.
His last managerial position was at Carlisle United before he returned to Northern Ireland permanently and settled in his beloved north coast.
Gregg was awarded an MBE in 1995 and an OBE in 2019 for his services to football.
In February 2020 Harry Gregg sadly passed away at the age of 87.
Harry Gregg Stat Pack
- In 25 games for Northern Ireland Gregg managed to keep four clean sheets – v Wales (Apr 1957); Portugal (May 1957); Czechoslovakia (Jun 1958) and Greece (Oct 1961).
- Gregg also won caps at schoolboy, youth, junior and amateur level for Northern Ireland as well as representing the Irish League against the Football League in March 1952.
- The majority of Gregg’s 25 appearances were while he was at Manchester United (16), the rest (nine) were with his first professional club Doncaster Rovers.
- England was the country Gregg played more internationals against than any other (six) – his record against them was won one, drew two and lost three.
- His total of 2,150 minutes for Northern Ireland at senior level came in the following competitions: British International Championship – 1,350; World Cup Qualifiers – 450; World Cup Finals – 260 and friendlies – 90.
- Harry was named in the World Cup All-Star team in 1958 alongside his international team-mate Danny Blanchflower. They are the only two players from Northern Ireland ever to achieve this honour.
- Gregg was 21 years and 155 days old when he made his international debut for Northern Ireland in a 2-1 victory over Wales in March 1954. He won his last cap aged just 31 years and 24 days in an 8-3 reverse at Wembley against England in Nov 1963.
- During his club career he never won any honours though he did pick up a runners-up medal from the 1958 FA Cup Final which Manchester United lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers.
- In total, Gregg played a total of 358 matches in all competitions for his three clubs, Doncaster Rovers, Manchester United and Stoke City.
- Harry Gregg’s record between the sticks for Northern Ireland was: won 7 drew 7 and lost 11.