Harry Gregg remembers Busby Babes with poignant poem as he makes final visit to Old Trafford on Munich air disaster anniversary
Harry Gregg says today's memorial service marking 60 years since the Munich air disaster will be the Northern Irishman's final visit to Old Trafford.
The 85-year-old gave an interview to BBC Sport NI's Stephen Watson ahead of the anniversary of the disaster, in which 23 people people died.
Gregg, who along with Sir Bobby Charlton is one of only two players from the Busby Babes team left alive, recalled memories of February 6, 1958.
The Coleraine man has sometimes been named 'The Hero of Munich' for pulling team-mates, including Charlton, and other survivors from the wreckage of British European Airways Flight 609.
But that's a tag he's still keen to play down.
"Professor Maurer (head of Munich hospital) and his staff saved a lot of lives," he replied to Stephen Watson's question about being known as a hero. "I know what I did. I know who I saw. I remember the baby. I remember that poor fella. Jesus Christ - what a way to die.
"I know what happened. I know when I found Bob, I know when I found all the rest of them. I know what I did and I would say to you now I am not playing a nice fellow. God forbid if it happened again I might be the first one to run away. You and I don't know how we're going to react from one day to another."
Gregg is in attendance at Old Trafford this afternoon for a visit that he says is 'bound to be' his last to United's home.
"I do not think that what happened in Munich made Manchester United," he continued. "It is a very large part of Manchester United's history but it's not all Manchester United.
"I have seen Manchester United through bad times and good times. I'm just very glad that Henry Gregg from 34 Windsor Avenue (Coleraine) was considered good enough to play for what I consider to be one of the greatest clubs in the world - not only because of an accident."
Seven of Gregg's Busby Babes team-mates died in the crash while Duncan Edwards passed away 15 days afterwards in hospital.
"I know I saw Jackie Blanchflower lying and Roger Byrne (who was dead), Jackie didn't know it, lying on top of him and not a mark on Roger," said Gregg.
"Jackie was crying, 'Greggy...I've broke my back'. I looked down and his right arm was hanging off.
"I remember when we got there, a Volkswagen van ploughing throw the snow to pick up the injured and bodies. I remember poor Bill Foulkes in the front and me lying in the back with a lot of guys badly injured - some of them who I'd played with and I didn't know. I remember Bill reaching across and punching the head off the driver in panic because the driver was going through the snow. I remember getting to the hospital."
Gregg would return to action for United within two weeks, helping the club to beat Sheffied Wednesday 3-0. He was even voted the best goalkeeper in the world after playing for Northern Ireland in the World Cup finals just four months later.
"I would be telling lies if I said that I thought about it all the time. In fact I would go insane," he added. "I know I was there. I know I was very fortunate. You couldn't live with it every day.
"The media would like to talk about what happened on a runway. I don't blame people for that but if all I was ever part of or all I ever achieved was to do with what happened in Germany, in Munich, if that was what my life was all about, it didn't come to very much."
Gregg also said that he writes about his former team-mates and finished his interview with an emotional reading of one of his poems about the Busby Babes:
How they laughed, they loved and played the game together
Played the game and gave it every ounce of life
And the crowds they thronged to see such free young spirits
My good God, there wasn't many who came home
Roger Byrne, Mark Jones and Salford's Eddie Colman
Tommy Taylor, Geoffrey Bent and David Pegg
Duncan Edwards, Dublin's own boy Liam Whelan
My good God, there wasn't any who came home
There are those gone down that long, long road before us
But each morn we try and keep them in our sight
In memories' eyes, the Busby Babes are all immortal
The Red Devil spirit lives and never died
Belfast Telegraph Digital