Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Robinson and McGuinness hail fitting tribute to true hero Harry Gregg

Northern Ireland and Manchester United goalkeeper, Harry Gregg, dives to save the ball during the international soccer match between Northern Ireland and Scotland at Windsor Park, Belfast, in this Oct. 3, 1959 file photo

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have revealed their joy that the great Harry Gregg is finally having a testimonial in honour of what he achieved as a player with Manchester United and Northern Ireland.

Both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will attend the game on Tuesday between Sir Alex Ferguson's side and an Irish League XI at Windsor Park.

The local team will be managed by former Northern Ireland skipper Martin O'Neill and Linfield boss David Jeffrey, who announced the squad yesterday.

It included two former Derry City heroes, Peter Hutton and Sean Hargan, on the back of a request from Gregg that he wanted the Brandywell outfit involved. With Ferguson bringing over his strongest squad, it promises to be quite an occasion.

Demand has been so great for the match that the organisers, the Carryduff George Best Manchester United Supporters Club, have decided to erect a temporary stand at the Railway End of the ground.

First Minister Robinson said: “This testimonial for Harry is so well deserved. It's one of those occasions when you sit back and wonder why has it not happened before now.

“When you think about Harry Gregg he was a fantastic footballer and probably in his time the best goalkeeper in the world, but he's also been such a good human being as well. There was of course his role during the Munich air disaster when he saved lives. There's so much you could acclaim in terms of Harry.

“I congratulate those who have picked up the challenge and organised this game. I've met some members of the Carryduff Supporters club in the past and they are great enthusiasts and it's good to see them doing it.”

While the First Minister is a big Tottenham supporter, the Deputy First Minister is a passionate follower of Manchester United. One of his biggest heroes growing up was Gregg (pictured), who starred for Northern Ireland in the 1958 World Cup.

McGuinness said: “A massive sporting hero of mine was Lev Yashin, the great Russian goalkeeper. He was recognised as the best goalkeeper in the world over a long period of a time. But in 1958 at the World Cup, it was Harry Gregg by an overwhelming majority who was voted by sports journalists as the best goalkeeper of the tournament. I thought that was amazing, that someone from here could outdo Lev Yashin at the World Cup.

“That's one of the reasons why Harry is such a hero for me. It's tremendous credit to Harry for achieving that and everything else in his career.

“I was shocked when I heard that this was the first and only testimonial for Harry Gregg.

“When I heard it was on I made it clear to everybody that come hell or high water I was going to be at Windsor Park to see United play against the Irish League XI.

“I'm delighted that two representatives from Derry City will be playing. Peter Hutton and Sean Hargan were great servants to Derry. Sean is actually my son in law. He's married to our Grainne so that makes things even more special for me. Also I think it's great that Martin O'Neill and David Jeffrey are managing the local team.”

Recalling his first meeting with Gregg, McGuinness said: “It was a sad occasion because it was at George Best's funeral, but one of the greatest moments of my life was meeting Harry.

“It was like winning the lotto. I went over to him and told him about my admiration of him and he and I hit it off.

“He's a lovely man and I hope he has a great night at his testimonial.”

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