Harry Gregg has revealed his immense pride that Martin O’Neill will manage an Irish League select side against Manchester United for the goalkeeping great’s testimonial in May.
Sunderland boss O’Neill has agreed to play a special role in Gregg’s big night after Harry himself had asked organisers of the match to invite Northern Ireland’s 1982 World Cup captain.
While May 15 is sure to be a special evening for the legendary United star Gregg, it also promises to be a unique occasion for O’Neill himself, who finally will take charge of the home side at Windsor Park — something many fans have been waiting and wanting to see for years.
O’Neill may not be managing Northern Ireland, but will no doubt enjoy the thought of providing the cream of local talent with some inspirational words before they play Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Just two days ahead of the Windsor encounter Martin will be hoping to lead his Sunderland team to victory over United at the Stadium of Light in the final weekend of the Premier League season.
It is a quick turnaround for all concerned, but encouraged by John White and John Dempsey from the George Best Carryduff Manchester United SC who are driving the testimonial, there is a genuine desire amongst all those involved including Linfield, who are hosting the match, and the Irish FA to ensure it is a success.
O’Neill is certainly looking forward to it.
“I am honoured to be asked to play a part in the testimonial which will acknowledge Harry’s great contribution to the game,” said the Sunderland boss, who is preparing to meet Arsenal today in the FA Cup.
Gregg, one of United’s greatest ever servants and a hero for Northern Ireland in the 1958 World Cup finals, was overjoyed when news came through that O’Neill would manage at Windsor.
“I am delighted and extremely proud that Martin has agreed to this,” said the 79-year-old.
“I’m a big admirer of Martin and it’s fantastic that he will be at Windsor Park.
“It’s brilliant that United are coming and now with Martin also involved it’s going to be great seeing him and Sir Alex Ferguson, two of the modern day managerial greats, on the touchline.”
O’Neill will be assisted by Linfield manager David Jeffrey, who will select the Irish League squad, obviously knowing the players much better than the former Celtic boss. In the panel of locally based players, Gregg has requested that Jeffrey include two Derry City stars.
Jeffrey, who has been in his high pressure job with the Blues for an incredible success filled 15 years, is relishing the prospect of working with O’Neill.
“It will be fantastic being alongside Martin for Harry’s testimonial. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure all the local players will learn a lot from him,” said Jeffrey.
Tickets details for the match will be released shortly, with under the instruction of Harry the vast majority of gate receipts going to three designated charities, the Manchester United Foundation, Friends of Cancer Centre in memory of Karen Gregg and the Elizabeth Hardie Ferguson Charitable Trust Fund.