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Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper 'hero of Munich' Harry Gregg dies at 87

Gregg passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by his family.

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Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Tributes have been paid to former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg- hailed a hero in the Munich air disaster- who has died at the age of 87.

His death was announced by the Harry Gregg Foundation on Monday morning.

“It is with great sorrow that we inform of the death of Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend Harry Gregg, OBE,” it said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Harry passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by his loving family.”

It is with great sorrow that we inform of the death of Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend Harry Gregg, OBE,...

Posted by Harry Gregg Foundation on Sunday, February 16, 2020

The family thanked the medical staff at Causeway Hospital for "their wonderful dedication to Harry over his last few weeks".

"To everyone who has called, visited or sent well wishes we thank you for the love and respect shown to Harry and the family," the family added.

They have asked for privacy with funeral details to be announced.

Former footballer and manager Liam Beckett, who was closed friends with Gregg, said Northern Ireland had lost a "national treasure".

Speaking on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster, Mr Beckett said: "My immediate prayers and sincere condolences go to Harry's family. I was with them last night down at the hospital .

"He was content last night, he had the family round him and despite the football and all the adulation that people pile upon him, Harry was most happy when he was among family.

"He was a family man, a humble man, a modest man and someone who I always thought was a man of principle and integrity.

"He was someone who got to the top of his profession through his own ability, it wasn't people in high places giving him a leg up.

"It was his own God-given ability that got Harry where he got to.

"This country has lost not only a proper legend but a national treasure."

Harry Gregg life and career [photos] Close

Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg was described as a ‘most reluctant hero’ by Sir Alex Ferguson (PA)

Harry Gregg was described as a ‘most reluctant hero’ by Sir Alex Ferguson (PA)

<b>37 Harry's game.. the last one (v Scotland 12/10/1963)
Harry Gregg will forever be regarded as one of the greatest players Northern Ireland has ever had. He was an inspirational goalkeeper for the great Peter Doherty's outstanding side that reached the World Cup finals in 1958 and was seen as a true Windsor Park hero. It was fitting then that his last international appearance at the ground ended in a victory. Taking on Scotland in the British Championship, Gregg, winning his 24th cap out of 25, made vital saves as Northern Ireland won 2-1.

<b>37 Harry's game.. the last one (v Scotland 12/10/1963) Harry Gregg will forever be regarded as one of the greatest players Northern Ireland has ever had. He was an inspirational goalkeeper for the great Peter Doherty's outstanding side that reached the World Cup finals in 1958 and was seen as a true Windsor Park hero. It was fitting then that his last international appearance at the ground ended in a victory. Taking on Scotland in the British Championship, Gregg, winning his 24th cap out of 25, made vital saves as Northern Ireland won 2-1.

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. Gregg was a reliable goalkeeper who played in 48 shutouts for Manchester United. When he climbed into the wreckage of a smashed up plane at Munich airport 50 years ago, Gregg was saving lives instead of shots.

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. Gregg was a reliable goalkeeper who played in 48 shutouts for Manchester United. When he climbed into the wreckage of a smashed up plane at Munich airport 50 years ago, Gregg was saving lives instead of shots.

Football:Northern Ireland 1957. Alf McMichael (second left back row) was a member of the Northern Ireland team which lost 1-0 to Italy in a World Cup tie at the Olympic Stadium, Rome in April 1957. FRONT: (from left) Jimmy McIlroy, Bertie Peacock, Eddie mcMorran, Danny Blanchflower, Billy Bingham, Wilbur Cush. BACK: Billy Simpson, Alfie McMichael, Harry Gregg, Willie Cunningham and Tommy Casey.

Football:Northern Ireland 1957. Alf McMichael (second left back row) was a member of the Northern Ireland team which lost 1-0 to Italy in a World Cup tie at the Olympic Stadium, Rome in April 1957. FRONT: (from left) Jimmy McIlroy, Bertie Peacock, Eddie mcMorran, Danny Blanchflower, Billy Bingham, Wilbur Cush. BACK: Billy Simpson, Alfie McMichael, Harry Gregg, Willie Cunningham and Tommy Casey.

Pic Shows: Photographs of the Manchester Utd Team playing Red Star Belgrade before the Munich Air Crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

Pic Shows: Photographs of the Manchester Utd Team playing Red Star Belgrade before the Munich Air Crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

William (Willie) Cunningham:Football/Northern Ireland, entering the stadium followed by Harry Gregg

William (Willie) Cunningham:Football/Northern Ireland, entering the stadium followed by Harry Gregg

Harry is interviewed after the crash

Harry is interviewed after the crash

The Munich air disaster

The Munich air disaster

FOOTBALL TEAMS: MANCHESTER UNITED: MUNICH AIR DISASTER.

FOOTBALL TEAMS: MANCHESTER UNITED: MUNICH AIR DISASTER.

Pic Shows: Verena and Vesna Lukic who were pulled from the wreckage of the Munich aircrash in 1958 by Harry Gregg the Man Utd Goalkeeper. Many of the Busby Babes were killed. (Collect of  Verena recovering in Clinic in Munich after Crash)Pic: Stuart Clarke.

Pic Shows: Verena and Vesna Lukic who were pulled from the wreckage of the Munich aircrash in 1958 by Harry Gregg the Man Utd Goalkeeper. Many of the Busby Babes were killed. (Collect of Verena recovering in Clinic in Munich after Crash)Pic: Stuart Clarke.

Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg

Pic Shows: Harry Gregg meeting the Lukic family at thier flat in Belgrade, Mother Vera, daughter Vesna and son Zoran, 50 years after the air crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

Pic Shows: Harry Gregg meeting the Lukic family at thier flat in Belgrade, Mother Vera, daughter Vesna and son Zoran, 50 years after the air crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

Harry Gregg outside the old terminal building. (runway)

Harry Gregg outside the old terminal building. (runway)

Handout photo supplied by Manchester United via Getty Images of Harry Gregg during the memorial service to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster at Old Trafford in Manchester. Pic: John Peters/Manchester United/PA Wire

Handout photo supplied by Manchester United via Getty Images of Harry Gregg during the memorial service to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster at Old Trafford in Manchester. Pic: John Peters/Manchester United/PA Wire

PA

Harry Gregg with a local farmer who was one of the first people on the
scene of the crash

Harry Gregg with a local farmer who was one of the first people on the scene of the crash

Harry Gregg the former Manchester Utd Goalkeeper sitting in the stands of Red Star Belgrade 50 years after the air crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

Harry Gregg the former Manchester Utd Goalkeeper sitting in the stands of Red Star Belgrade 50 years after the air crash in which many of the Manchester United team died. Pic (C) Stuart Clarke.

Attending the launch of the Northern Ireland Boys Football Association and Belfast City Council  Mallusk Football Festival were Harry Gregg and Bertie Peacock who helped make the draw for opposing teams in the opening rounds. Picture By Rick Hewitt. 26/8/03.

Attending the launch of the Northern Ireland Boys Football Association and Belfast City Council Mallusk Football Festival were Harry Gregg and Bertie Peacock who helped make the draw for opposing teams in the opening rounds. Picture By Rick Hewitt. 26/8/03.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 -   Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners.
Alan Simpson from BBC and Harry Gregg.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners. Alan Simpson from BBC and Harry Gregg. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 -   Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners.
11. Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame 
Winner : Harry Gregg pictured with Sporting celebrity: Pat Jennings to present the award
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
///MUST USE ///  MUST USE///

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners. 11. Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame Winner : Harry Gregg pictured with Sporting celebrity: Pat Jennings to present the award Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. ///MUST USE /// MUST USE///

Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg has died aged 87 (David Young/PA)

Harry Gregg has died aged 87 (David Young/PA)

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 - 

The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony

Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Golfer Rory McIlroy shares a joke with NI Football legend Harry Gregg pictured at the National Football Stadium

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 - The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Golfer Rory McIlroy shares a joke with NI Football legend Harry Gregg pictured at the National Football Stadium Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Rory Mcliroy meets with Harry Gregg at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation Invitational Pro-Am at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Rory Mcliroy meets with Harry Gregg at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation Invitational Pro-Am at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Saturday 21st  July 2018
Supercup NI match between Celtic u19's and Manchester United u19's at Coleraine Showgrounds.
 Manchester United legend Phil Neville pictured at tonights game presenting Harry Gregg
Mandatory Credit: Stephen Hamilton /Presseye

Saturday 21st July 2018 Supercup NI match between Celtic u19's and Manchester United u19's at Coleraine Showgrounds. Manchester United legend Phil Neville pictured at tonights game presenting Harry Gregg Mandatory Credit: Stephen Hamilton /Presseye

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 -Picture by Brian Little/PressEye 
Goal keeping Legends Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings attending The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony before Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Photo by Brian Little/ Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 -Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Goal keeping Legends Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings attending The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony before Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by Brian Little/ Press Eye

Presseye Northern Ireland - 15th May 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Harry Gregg Testimonial - Irish League XI v Manchester United

Manchester United legend Harry Gregg  shakes hands with Jonny Evans before his emotional Testimonial at Windsor Park.

Presseye Northern Ireland - 15th May 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Harry Gregg Testimonial - Irish League XI v Manchester United Manchester United legend Harry Gregg shakes hands with Jonny Evans before his emotional Testimonial at Windsor Park.

©William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 -   Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners.
Former soccer stars Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings with the BBC's Alan Simpson.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th January 2009 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners. Former soccer stars Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings with the BBC's Alan Simpson. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Presseye Northern Ireland - 15th May 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Harry Gregg Testimonial - Irish League XI v Manchester United

Manchester United legend Harry Gregg  before his emotional Testimonial at Windsor Park.

Presseye Northern Ireland - 15th May 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Harry Gregg Testimonial - Irish League XI v Manchester United Manchester United legend Harry Gregg before his emotional Testimonial at Windsor Park.

©William Cherry/Presseye

Harry Gregg, who picked up the Hall of Fame Award with fellow legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings last night

Harry Gregg, who picked up the Hall of Fame Award with fellow legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings last night

Jackie Fullerton interviews Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners in the Ramada, Belfast

Jackie Fullerton interviews Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Magners in the Ramada, Belfast

Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Gregg share a joke at the Windsor Park testimonial game last year

Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Gregg share a joke at the Windsor Park testimonial game last year

�� Man Utd via Getty Images

Legend: Harry Gregg

Legend: Harry Gregg

Derek Simpson: www.sportfile.co.

Survivor and hero: Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Survivor and hero: Manchester United legend Harry Gregg

Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 7th October 2016

Northern Ireland v San Marino at the National Stadium, Belfast.

 Northern Ireland football stars Pat Jennings and Harry Gregg help Jay and Ellie cut the ribbon to official open the new stadium for the fans.

Photographer - © Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 7th October 2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino at the National Stadium, Belfast. Northern Ireland football stars Pat Jennings and Harry Gregg help Jay and Ellie cut the ribbon to official open the new stadium for the fans. Photographer - © Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Harry Gregg meets World champion boxer Carl Frampton at the opening of Windsor Park

Harry Gregg meets World champion boxer Carl Frampton at the opening of Windsor Park

Beaming: Harry Gregg

Beaming: Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg has been awarded an OBE (Paul Faith/PA)

Harry Gregg has been awarded an OBE (Paul Faith/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Harry Gregg, who survived the Manchester United Munich air disaster, has died aged 87 (Paul Faith/PA)

Harry Gregg, who survived the Manchester United Munich air disaster, has died aged 87 (Paul Faith/PA)

Harry Gregg

Former United midfielder and Northern Ireland international Norman Whiteside tweeted: "Harry Gregg what a man we love you Sir RIP. As a 15 year old boy Harry came to visit me in hospital in Manchester to make sure I was in the right hands of Manchester United ?? What a man ?? RIP."

Former United defender Gary Neville tweeted "Harry Gregg RIP."

The IFA described Harry as a "legend of the game and a brave, selfless giant of a man," in a tribute.

Gregg was the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Manchester United in December 1957 for £23,500. He was later voted the world's best stopper.

Gregg bravely rescued his team-mates and other passengers following the plane crash in which 23 people were killed in February 1958.

The plane crashed as it stopped to refuel as the team travelled back from Belgrade from a European Cup tie.

Eight Manchester United players died in the crash.

As well as a baby, the Magherafelt-born Gregg pulled teammates and other survivors out of the wreckage.

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Harry is interviewed after the crash

Harry is interviewed after the crash

Harry is interviewed after the crash

While praised as a hero for his actions, he has always played down his role and was determined it would not define his career or life.

Two weeks after the disaster, Gregg kept a clean sheet as Manchester United in a win against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.

He went on to play 247 times for Manchester United and was capped 25 times by Northern Ireland.

Sir Alex Ferguson described Gregg as a "reluctant hero".

He said it was one of the greatest honours to play for Manchester United.

He was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to football.

Gregg founded the Harry Gregg Foundation in 2015, a charity aimed at promoting player development, community cohesion and participation in football.

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From left, the Busby Babes: Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Ken Morgans, Bobby Charlton,Dennis Viollet, Tommy Taylor, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Albert Scanlon and Roger Byrne

From left, the Busby Babes: Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Ken Morgans, Bobby Charlton,Dennis Viollet, Tommy Taylor, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Albert Scanlon and Roger Byrne

From left, the Busby Babes: Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Ken Morgans, Bobby Charlton,Dennis Viollet, Tommy Taylor, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Albert Scanlon and Roger Byrne

Belfast Telegraph