Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Northern Ireland star Harry Gregg to unveil plaque for writer killed in Munich crash

By Adrian Rutherford

It is a city often split by football tribalism - but a former Northern Ireland star will help bridge Manchester's sporting divide next month to remember a victim of the Munich air disaster.

Harry Gregg, the ex-Manchester United goalkeeper, will unveil a plaque in honour of Manchester City footballer Frank Swift.

Both were aboard United's flight returning from a European Cup game in Belgrade when it crashed after a refuelling stop at Munich airport on February 6, 1958.

A total of 23 people - players, crew, coaching staff and journalists, including Swift, then a reporter for the News of the World - were killed.

Gregg was one of the heroes of the tragedy, returning to the wreckage to rescue people.

On September 6, a plaque will be unveiled in Swift's honour in his home town of Blackpool.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) has linked up with the Blackpool Civic Trust to mount the plaque close to where Swift was born and only yards from Revoe Learning Academy - known then as Revoe School - that he attended as a schoolboy.

It will be unveiled by Gregg, who made 25 appearances for Northern Ireland and 247 for Manchester United. Gregg will be joined at the unveiling by former Manchester City keeper Alex Williams.

Gregg, now aged 86 and living in Coleraine, and Frank Swift, who played 33 times for England, knew each other well prior to Munich.

Gregg had joined the Busby Babes from Doncaster Rovers in December 1957 and recalled how Swift criticised him for spending too much time off his goal-line.

He previously recalled: "When I say Frank was a wonderful character, it is not because he always wrote nice things about me.

"It is easy to be a character and not have the ability, but Big Swiftie had the ability and character. Put these two things together, what more could you want?"

The day before the match in Belgrade, Swift told Gregg about where he purchased his goalkeeping gloves during his own long career. As a mark of respect, Gregg later made the trip to the Ashton-under-Lyne shop to buy a pair.

Gregg became a hero in the wake of the Munich crash, rescuing four people from the plane, including team-mate Bobby Charlton and a mother and her young daughter.

Seven of Gregg's team-mates in the squad were killed immediately, while rising star Duncan Edwards died 15 days later in hospital, as the final toll reached 23.

On the same day that Swift is remembered, the life of another famous footballer from Blackpool will also be marked.

Blackpool and England star Jimmy Armfield, who died in January, was also a Revoe pupil.

A playground mural of him and Swift will be unveiled, while a plaque to Armfield will be unveiled by members of the Armfield family and PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph