Harry Gregg before a Manchester United game in Rotterdam in 1963
|Full name||Henry Gregg|
|Date of birth||27 October 1932|
|Place of birth||Tobermore, Northern Ireland|
|Date of death||16 February 2020(aged 87)|
|Place of death||Coleraine, Northern Ireland|
|Windsor Park Swifts|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Henry Gregg, footballer and manager. A goalkeeper, he played for Manchester United during the reign of Sir Matt Busby, with a total of 247 appearances for the club. He was a survivor of the Munich air disaster in 1958. Gregg also played for Doncaster Rovers and Stoke City, as well as making 25 appearances for the Northern Ireland national team between 1954 and 1963, including at the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He later went into management with Carlisle United, Crewe Alexandra, Shrewsbury Town and Swansea City.(27 October 1932 – 16 February 2020) was a Northern Irish professional
Gregg was born in Magherafelt, County Londonderry. While working as an apprentice joiner, he started his football career with Windsor Park Swifts, the reserve team of Linfield, before signing for his local club, Coleraine. At the age of 18, he earned a move across the Irish Sea to Doncaster Rovers. In December 1957, he transferred to Manchester United for £23,500, at the time a world-record fee for a goalkeeper.
He is sometimes referred to as "The Hero of Munich" for his actions in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster, pulling his teammates – including Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet – from the burning plane. Among others he helped were Vera Lukić, the pregnant wife of a Yugoslav diplomat and her two-year-old daughter, Vesna, as well as his badly injured manager, Matt Busby. George Best, who used to clean Gregg's boots, said, "Bravery is one thing but what Harry did was about more than bravery. It was about goodness."
Gregg played in United's first match after the disaster, a FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield Wednesday. United won 3–0 and went on to reach the 1958 FA Cup Final, which they lost 2–0 to Bolton Wanderers. The second goal in the final was scored in controversial fashion as Nat Lofthouse barged Gregg, and the ball with him, into the goal. United finished ninth in the league that season, as their league form declined after losing so many players in the Munich tragedy.
He was unable to earn a winners' medal with United, despite playing for the club during a successful period. He was ruled out of the 1963 FA Cup Final victory due to a shoulder injury, and a succession of injuries meant that he could not play enough games to qualify for a league championship medal in the 1964–65 season, and he was sold during the first half of their title-winning campaign in 1966–67. They finished runners-up to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1959. During his United career, Gregg kept 48 clean sheets in 247 appearances.
Gregg was transferred to Stoke City in December 1966. He played twice for Stoke, with mixed success; in his first match, he conceded four against Leicester City as Stoke lost 4–2, and then kept a clean sheet in a 2–0 victory over Blackpool. He retired at the end of the 1966–67 season.
Gregg won 25 caps for the Northern Ireland national team. He made his international debut in March 1954, playing against Wales. Gregg featured as Northern Ireland won 3–2 against England at Wembley in November 1957, and helped them qualify for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament, in which Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals.
In 1968, he was appointed manager of Shrewsbury Town. In November 1972, he became manager of Swansea City, resigning in February 1975 to join Crewe Alexandra where he remained until 1978. He then had a spell as goalkeeper coach with his old team Manchester United at the invitation of Dave Sexton, where he stayed until Sexton left in 1981.
His next club was Swindon Town, as assistant manager to Lou Macari. Macari used a direct style of play, which Gregg disapproved of, and they were both sacked by Swindon in April 1985 after the disagreement between the pair became public. Macari was reinstated after a fan protest, and went on to lead Swindon to the Fourth Division title in 1986. Gregg then joined Carlisle United, initially working for manager Bob Stokoe. During the 1986–87 season Gregg succeeded Stokoe as Carlisle manager, but he was unable to prevent them from suffering relegation to the Fourth Division. Gregg left Carlisle during the autumn of 1987.
Television appearances and portrayals
Gregg appeared in a number of television programmes about Manchester United and the Munich air disaster, including Munich: End of a Dream – a 1998 documentary that marked the 40th anniversary of the crash. On the 50th anniversary of the air crash he appeared in the documentary One Life: Munich Air Disaster, broadcast 6 February 2008 on the BBC, in which he returned to the scene of the crash and the hospital for the first time and also met the son of Mrs Lukić, with whom she was pregnant at the time of the disaster. He expressed disappointment at never having been able to meet Mr Lukić, who had died in 2007. He was portrayed by actor Ben Peel in a 2011 BBC film, United, which was centred around the Munich air disaster.
Gregg made an emotional account of the disaster on a TV programme entitled Munich Air Disaster: I Was There on the National Geographic Channel. In particular it centres around a personal journey for a reunion with Vera Lukić, a Serbian woman (the wife of a Yugoslav diplomat), whom Gregg saved from the wreckage, as well as Vera's baby daughter Vesna. Unknown to Gregg, Vera was also pregnant at the time of the disaster, so Gregg also rescued another life, that of Vera's son Zoran. Gregg was shown meeting Zoran in the documentary One Life: Munich Air Disaster.
In April 2015, the feature-length documentary Spirit of '58 was screened as part of the Belfast Film Festival. It featured interviews with the five surviving members of the Northern Ireland 1958 World Cup squad (Gregg, Billy Bingham, Peter McParland, Jimmy McIlroy and Billy Simpson), as it told the story of their journey throughout the 1950s under the management of Peter Doherty, culminating in the 1958 World Cup.
Gregg married his first wife, Mavis Markham, at St James's Church, Doncaster, in 1957, while still a Doncaster Rovers player. Their first child, Linda, was born later that year. A second daughter, Karen, was born a year later. Mavis died of cancer in 1961. On 2 July 1965 Gregg married Carolyn Maunders at St Mary's Parish Church, Rostherne. They had four children: Julie, Jane, Suzanne and John-Henry. He suffered a further tragedy on 24 April 2009, when his daughter Karen died of cancer at the age of 50. Gregg's uncle was the grandfather of fellow footballer Steve Lomas, who played for clubs including Manchester City and West Ham United, and managed the likes of St Johnstone and Millwall.
Gregg played for an under-18 team from Coleraine in a Ramelton Cup match during the 1950s. In May 2011, Gregg - then aged 78 - agreed to go back to Ramelton (in County Donegal) where he spent an evening, alongside Jobby Crossan, with local people in Ramelton Community Hall.
Gregg celebrated his time at Old Trafford on 15 May 2012 with a testimonial organised by John White and John Dempsey from the George Best Carryduff Manchester United SC. The testimonial featured Manchester United playing an Irish League Select XI managed by Martin O'Neill and David Jeffrey. The match ended 4–1 to Manchester United.
On 1 July 2008, Gregg was made an Honorary Graduate of the University of Ulster and awarded a Doctor of the University (DUniv) in recognition of his contribution to football at their Summer Graduation Ceremony.
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|Doncaster Rovers||1952–53||Second Division||8||0||0||0||–||–||8||0|
|Manchester United||1957–58||First Division||19||0||8||0||–||4||0||31||0|
|Stoke City||1966–67||First Division||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|Shrewsbury Town||1 July 1968||1 October 1972||195||66||55||74||33.8|
|Swansea City||1 November 1972||1 January 1975||101||34||23||44||33.7|
|Crewe Alexandra||1 January 1975||31 May 1978||163||53||53||57||32.5|
|Carlisle United||20 May 1986||17 November 1987||73||20||11||42||27.4|
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- "Carlisle United". Football Club History Database.
- "One Life: Munich Air Disaster". BBC. 6 February 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- United TV Drama
- "Munich documentary on National Geographic". Natgeotv.com. Archived from the original on 22 June 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "'I've been called a hero after Munich air disaster, but I'm not really a hero'". Belfast Telegraph. 3 February 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
- McKee, Ross (17 April 2015). "1958 World Cup: Northern Ireland's odyssey in Sweden recalled in new film". Retrieved 17 February 2020.
- Campbell, Denis (12 January 2003). "Triumph and despair". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Gregg, Harry; Walsh, Andy; Anderson, Roger (2002). Harry's Game: The Autobiography. Mainstream. ISBN 978-1-84018-366-5.
- "For Karen". Harry Gregg.com. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Pattullo, Alan (26 November 2011). "Interview: Steve Lomas, St Johnstone manager". The Scotsman. JPIMedia Publishing. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
- Sharkey, Conor (27 February 2020). "Death of Harry Gregg sparks memories of soccer legend's visit to Ramelton". Donegal News. p. 18.
- "Welcome to the George Best Carryduff MUSC". carryduffmusc.com. Archived from the original on 30 January 2010.
- "Harry Gregg.com - The Testimonial". Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Nartin O'Neill and Harry Gregg Testimonial". The Belfast Telegraph. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "Manchester United beat Irish League 4-1 in Harry Gregg game". BBC Sport. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
- Brian Glanville (17 February 2020). "Harry Gregg obituary". The Guardian.
- "Harry Gregg: Munich air disaster hero and Northern Ireland goalkeeping great dies". BBC Sport. 17 February 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
- "New Year Honours 2019: Twiggy, Michael Palin and Gareth Southgate on list". BBC News. 29 December 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
- Honorary Degree for Munich Hero Gregg Archived 20 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine University of Ulster News Release 1 July 2008
- Harry Gregg at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
- Gregg, Harry at National-Football-Teams.com