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As both a goalkeeper and as a human being, legendary Harry Gregg stayed true to himself

Steven Beacom



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Fondly remembered: Harry Gregg during his heyday as a world-renowned goalkeeper of the highest quality

Fondly remembered: Harry Gregg during his heyday as a world-renowned goalkeeper of the highest quality

Hand over: Harry Gregg and Phil Neville at the 2018 SuperCupNI

Hand over: Harry Gregg and Phil Neville at the 2018 SuperCupNI

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Fondly remembered: Harry Gregg during his heyday as a world-renowned goalkeeper of the highest quality

Harry Gregg. Honest, modest, frank, fearless and fun. Braver than a lion, he was tough, tender and surprised in his final years that so many people remembered who he was.

How could you forget Harry? Iconic, heroic Harry who always told it straight and has sadly passed away at the age of 87.

Harry Gregg, the goalkeeper, was one of the best on earth. He proved that at the 1958 World Cup for Northern Ireland.

Harry Gregg, the human being, was out of this world. The man saved lives as he risked his own in the Munich air disaster.

Chatting to him, often for hours on end because boy could he talk, was as educational as it was inspirational. Great craic too. He loved a laugh.

Truth be told, it could also be fraught with danger. The first conversation I had with him over 20 years ago left me thinking I had just been thrown about by a tornado. Storm Harry didn't hold back. The guy was always a force of nature.

He disagreed with something I had written in the Belfast Telegraph and let me know about it in no uncertain terms. Turned out he was right. The more I got to know this remarkable man, the more that tended to be the case.

He knew his football. Be it his beloved Manchester United, Lionel Messi or Michael O'Neill, Harry never shied away from offering an opinion.

He knew about the highs and lows of life too, and as the years passed and trust was established, he would speak about how much family and friendship mattered. He adored his wife Carolyn, a strong and warm lady, his children and his grandchildren.

And he revelled in seeing kids smiling and playing sport thanks to the Harry Gregg Foundation. Harry was rightly proud of the fine work the organisation did, giving children opportunities that would otherwise not have been available to them.

That's another thing about Harry Gregg, he was a champion of the underdog. There was an integrity, loyalty and understanding about him. He would have battled the Russian army all on his own if he thought it was the correct thing to do.

When every former United great seemed to be having a pop at Jose Mourinho during his time in charge at Old Trafford, Gregg stood alone in conducting an interview in this newspaper declaring that they should all give the manager a break.

On Harry's final visit to the Theatre of Dreams in 2018, the Special Ones met briefly at the service of remembrance marking the 60th anniversary of the Munich tragedy.

Gregg recalled: "Jose Mourinho put a wreath down and came back to sit down. I leaned forward because he was sitting in front of me and touched him on the shoulder and said, 'Thank you'.

"He looked back and looked again and all of a sudden he grabbed my hand and said, 'Harry Gregg, Harry Gregg' and he held on to my hand. I said, 'Thanks' again and that was it.

"I was rather taken aback when, after I had tapped his shoulder, he turned and said my name and held my hand. For me it was very emotional."

Harry had not been to the stadium for years but wanted to honour those who passed away in Munich and travelled to Manchester with Carolyn, son John and grandson Harry.

"I didn't want to go and I did want to go, if you understand what I mean. I was dreading it because I was afraid how I would react," Harry told me shortly after he returned home.

"My wife, my son and my little grandson backed me up and I'm glad I went over. I don't like showing the soft side of me but I did shed a tear."

There will be many tears shed for Harry Gregg. A true great, a true hero and forever true to himself.

Belfast Telegraph