Obituary: Harry Gregg OBE
The entire Manchester United family is extremely saddened to hear the news that the club’s former goalkeeper Harry Gregg has passed away, aged 87.
Harry’s contribution to the United story could never be underestimated. The affection in which he was held by generations of supporters was immense and, although it has been said many times before, we will not see his like again. In short, he was, without question, one of the great figures in United’s history and his name and deeds, both on and off the field, will always be remembered and revered.
A survivor of the Munich Air Disaster in February 1958, Gregg’s actions on that terrible day are testament to the man’s heroic bravery and spirit. Having escaped the crash with just a bloodied nose, he went back into the wreckage to pull out those who were trapped. He rescued a 20-month-old child, a pregnant woman and attempted to revive Matt Busby.
It wasn't out of character. A real tough nut, Gregg was vocal, commanding and abrasive. His bold personality and powerful physique had persuaded Busby to fork out £23,000 in December 1957 – then a world-record fee for a goalkeeper. After the events of Munich just three months after signing for the club, Gregg was a part of the patchwork team built by Jimmy Murphy who reached the FA Cup final three months later. United were heroic in defeat, with Gregg rightly aggrieved that one of Nat Lofthouse's goals for Bolton Wanderers was somehow allowed to stand, yet that losers’ medal would be the only decoration of his time at Old Trafford.
The Northern Ireland international was voted best goalkeeper at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as his country reached the quarter-finals and he remained United’s first-choice custodian for four years until a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the 1963 FA Cup final, threatened his career. Gregg was told by surgeons he may never play again but he eventually had major surgery and staged a comeback against Benfica at Old Trafford seven months later.
Further injuries eventually curtailed his playing career and, in December 1966, Gregg joined Stoke City as player-coach. He played only twice for the Potters before moving into management, taking charge at Shrewsbury Town, Swansea City and Crewe Alexandra.
Having moved to Kuwait as player-coach of Kitan Sports Club, Gregg returned to Old Trafford as a goalkeeping coach in 1978, where he spent a further three years. In June 1995, Gregg was awarded an MBE, later receiving an OBE in 2019.
In 2012 Sir Alex Ferguson took a full-strength United team to Belfast to play an Irish League Select in a testimonial match for the great man, then aged 79.
Before that special occasion, Sir Alex paid his own personal tribute to Harry, saying: “We should always pay homage to those players who have played such a part in creating our history and Harry is one of them. Harry showed great courage in the Munich Air Disaster.
"There was also his longevity as a goalkeeper at Manchester United. He is part of the rich history of our club and we should never forget that."
Well said. Harry's achievements and actions mean he will never be forgotten at Old Trafford.
HARRY GREGG 1932 - 2020
Country: Northern Ireland
Date of birth: 27 October 1932
Joined United: 1 December 1957
Debut: 21 December 1957 v Leicester City (home), Football League Division One
Left United: 1 December 1966