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Harry Gregg: 'Keepers aren't crazy... they're a special breed who deserve respect'

By Harry Gregg

Published 23/06/2016

Legend: Harry Gregg was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament at the 1958 World Cup, where Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals
Legend: Harry Gregg was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament at the 1958 World Cup, where Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals

Take a bow Michael McGovern. When goalkeepers perform heroics they are rightly saluted. They are often made fun of but the perception that goalkeepers are a little crazy is absolute nonsense!

I was very proud to coach goalkeepers in my career and they need to be in complete control of everything to do their jobs properly.

They've got to have great communication skills but there's not much difference between them and outfield players.

You've got to have a good football brain to succeed.

I have always had enormous respect for keepers, none more than the great former prisoner of war and Manchester City keeper Bert Trautmann.

If he was standing at the opposite end of the pitch to me I knew I had to have a good game to beat him. He was the greatest I have seen.

It's a physical challenge being a goalkeeper but it takes a lot of mental strength too and Michael has commented that he was tested in that regard.

His performance was crucial because goal difference got us through to the last 16.

It's a wonderful fairytale. He did exceptionally well, as the team did overall.

He will look back at this game as his proudest moment. For me, football is a team game and when we beat England 3-2 at Wembley in 1957 that was my favourite moment as a Northern Ireland keeper.

After the game the England boss Walter Winterbottom said he felt Northern Ireland were a lucky team. Danny Blanchflower, our wonderful player and captain, said: 'I'd rather be a lucky manager than a good one.'

In my mind that was the making of Northern Ireland as an international force.

Goalkeepers, like everyone else, are allowed to have opinions and I'll always be honest.

What upsets me is people coaching who have never played the game in their lives. There's the England coach, Roy Hodgson, who has never played league football!

Football's always been a simple game to me. I hear people taking about different formations and systems and I haven't a clue what they are on about.

I always remember a short team-talk from the great Sir Matt Busby, 'If you are not good enough you wouldn't be here, we go up together and we come back together, God bless and walk out.'

But what Northern Ireland have achieved in this tournament is truly remarkable.

It's a special bit of history making the last 16 and Michael O'Neill, his staff and players should feel very proud. They deserve so much credit.

Good luck to the boys and I wish them every success. It's a great lift for the country.

Belfast Telegraph

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