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Norman Whiteside: Harry Gregg looked after me at Manchester United like he did for George Best

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Never forgotten: Harry Gregg remembers those killed in Munich

Never forgotten: Harry Gregg remembers those killed in Munich

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Never forgotten: Harry Gregg remembers those killed in Munich

Manchester United and Northern Ireland folk hero Norman Whiteside has told how Harry Gregg became his friend and mentor in his early days as a schoolboy at Old Trafford.

"Harry was on the coaching staff at United, under Dave Sexton, when I first arrived and he took me under his wing," Norman, who joined United in 1978, recalled yesterday.

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Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

And he especially remembered a visit from Gregg while hospitalised in Manchester, aged just 15.

"I was in for an appendix operation and Harry called in to make sure I was being looked after. At that age, away from family back in Belfast, it was good to see and hear a friendly face and voice from home.

"Harry brought football magazines for me to read, Shoot and Match. Then he started telling stories and jokes. I had a tube attached to my stomach and every time I laughed it fell out.

"He was back again when I went in for a knee operation. That was Harry's way. He was a great source of encouragement and helped me settle in Manchester and at the club.

"He always kept a close watch on how boys from Northern Ireland, in particular, were adapting and progressing at the club.

"I was chuffed that he took to me. Harry had looked after George Best and Sammy McIlroy before me and I was grateful that he took the same interest in me."

The pair kept in touch after their respective United careers ended.

Whiteside revealed: "I was honoured to be asked to attend a function for the Harry Gregg Foundation in Coleraine two years ago. I sat beside him and relived old times. He was a one-off character but you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him. Thankfully I stayed in his good books."

Gregg's first English club, Doncaster Rovers, also paid tribute through chief executive Gavin Baldwin, who said: "The thoughts of everyone at Rovers are with the friends and family of Harry Gregg, who made 99 appearances for Rovers before being signed for Manchester United by Matt Busby in 1957 and becoming a hero of Munich.

"He was one of the first players inducted into Rovers' Hall of Fame in recognition of the contribution he made to the club, earning himself a richly deserved move.

"Harry's strength of character was never more evident than when his bravery helped save the lives of team-mates on that tragic night in Munich. From everyone at Rovers, may he rest in peace."

Ironically, this weekend, Doncaster travel to Shrewsbury where Harry served as manager from 1968 until 1972.

Belfast Telegraph