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Harry Gregg,former Manchester United goalkeeper and ‘Hero of Munich’, dies at 85

Early life,career.personal life,death

Early life

Harry Gregg was born 27 October 1932 in Magherafelt, County Londonderry.

Career

Before signing for his local club Coleraine, Harry begun his football career with Windsor Park Swifts, the reserve team of Linfield. At the age of 18, he  moved  to Doncaster Rovers and in December 1957, he transferred to Manchester United for £23,500, at the time a world-record fee for a goalkeeper.

Gregg played in United’s first match, a FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield Wednesday, after the Munich Air disaster,where British European Airways Flight 609 crashed, with the Manchester United football team with its supporters and journalists on board. He rescued some of his team mates including Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet from the burning plane and also helped,Vera Lukic, the pregnant wife of a Yugoslav diplomat and her two year old, earning himself the name “Hero of Munich”.

United won 3–0 and went on to reach the 1958 FA Cup Final, which they lost 2–0 to Bolton.The second goal in the final was scored in controversial fashion as Nat Lofthouse barged Gregg, and the ball with him, into the goal. United finished ninth in the league that season, as their league form declined after losing so many players in the Munich tragedy.

Harry was however unable to earn a winners’ medal with United, despite playing for the club during a successful period, as he was ruled out of the 1963 FA Cup Final victory due to a shoulder injury. A succession of injuries also meant that he could not play enough games to qualify for a league championship medal in the 1964–65 season.

In December 1966,Gregg was transferred to Stoke City. In his first match, he conceded four against Leicester City as Stoke lost 4–2, and then kept a clean sheet in a 2–0 victory over Blackpool. He retired at the end of the 1966–67 season.

In 1968, Gregg was appointed as manager of Shrewsbury Town and became manager of Swansea City in November 1972,before resigning in February 1975 to join Crewe Alexandra where he remained until 1978.He then became a goalkeeper coach at his old team Manchester United at the invitation of Dave Sexton, where he stayed until Sexton left in 1981.

Later on, he became assistant manager to Lou Macari at Swindson Town but had an open argument with Macari and they both got laid off in April 1985.However,Macari went on to lead Swinson to the fourth Division Title in 1986.

During the 1986–87 season,Gregg had a spell as manager of Carlisle United,but without much success as they suffered a second successive relegation that pushed them into the Fourth Division for the first time since the 1960s. He retired in 1987.

Personal life

Gregg married his first wife, Mavis Markham,who died of cancer in 1961, at St James’s Church, Doncaster, in 1957, while still a Doncaster Rovers player and they had their first child, Linda, later that year. A second daughter, Karen, was born a year later. Unfortunately, Karen died of cancer on April 2004.

 On 2 July 1965 Gregg married Carolyn Maunders at St Mary’s Parish Church, Rostherne and they had four children: Julie, Jane, Suzanne and John-Henry.

Gregg once owned the Windsor Hotel in the town of Portstewart, on the north coast of County Londonderry.

On 1 July 2008, Gregg was made an Honorary Graduate of the University of Ulster and awarded a Doctor of the University (DUniv) in recognition of his contribution to football at their Summer Graduation Ceremony. He was also made an Officer of the Order (OBE) for services to football in the 2019 New Year Honors.

Death

Gregg died on 16 February 2020, after several weeks of illness, at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, County Londonderry.

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