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Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg Northern Irish footballer and manager

Northern Irish footballer and manager
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Northern Irish footballer and manager
A.K.A. Henry Gregg
Was Athlete Football player Association football player Writer Sports official Association football manager
From United Kingdom Northern Ireland
Type Literature Sports
Gender male
Birth 27 October 1932, Magherafelt, United Kingdom
Death 16 February 2020, Coleraine, United Kingdom (aged 87 years)
Star sign ScorpioScorpio
The details

Henry Gregg, OBE (27 October 1932 – 16 February 2020) was a Northern Irish professional footballer and manager. A goalkeeper, he played for Manchester United during the reign of Sir Matt Busby, with a total of 247 appearances for the club. He was a survivor of the Munich air disaster in 1958. Gregg also played for Doncaster Rovers and Stoke City, as well as making 25 appearances for the Northern Ireland national team between 1954 and 1964. He later went into management with Carlisle United, Crewe Alexandra, Shrewsbury Town and Swansea City.

Club career

Gregg was born in Magherafelt, County Londonderry. While working as an apprentice joiner, he started his football career with Windsor Park Swifts, the reserve team of Linfield, before signing for his local club, Coleraine. At the age of 18, he earned a move across the Irish Sea to Doncaster Rovers. In December 1957, he transferred to Manchester United for £23,500, at the time a world-record fee for a goalkeeper.

He is sometimes referred to as "The Hero of Munich" for his actions in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster, pulling his teammates – including Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet – from the burning plane. Among others he helped were Vera Lukić, the pregnant wife of a Yugoslav diplomat and her two-year-old daughter, Vesna, as well as his badly injured manager, Matt Busby. George Best, who used to clean Gregg's boots, said, "Bravery is one thing but what Harry did was about more than bravery. It was about goodness."

Gregg played in United's first match after the disaster, a FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield Wednesday. 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.

He was unable to earn a winners' medal with United, despite playing for the club during a successful period. He was ruled out of the 1963 FA Cup Final victory due to a shoulder injury, and a succession of injuries meant that he could not play enough games to qualify for a league championship medal in the 1964–65 season, and he was sold during the first half of their title-winning campaign in 1966–67. They finished runners-up to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1959. During his United career, Gregg kept 48 clean sheets in 247 appearances.

Gregg was transferred to Stoke City in December 1966. He played twice for Stoke, with mixed success; 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.

International career

Gregg won 25 caps for the Northern Ireland national team. He made his international debut in March 1954, playing against Wales. Gregg featured as Northern Ireland won 3–2 against England at Wembley in November 1957, and helped them qualify for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament, in which Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals.

Managerial career

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

His next club was Swindon Town as assistant manager to Lou Macari. Although Macari went on to lead Swindon to the Fourth Division title in 1986, it was without Gregg – he had an open disagreement with Macari which led to them both being sacked in April 1985. During the 1986–87 season he had a spell as manager of Carlisle United, failing to prevent them from suffering a second successive relegation that pushed them into the Fourth Division for the first time since the 1960s.

Television appearances and portrayals

Gregg appeared in a number of television programmes about Manchester United and the Munich air disaster, including Munich: End of a Dream – a 1998 documentary that marked the 40th anniversary of the crash. On the 50th anniversary of the air crash he appeared in the documentary One Life: Munich Air Disaster, broadcast 6 February 2008 on the BBC, in which he returned to the scene of the crash and the hospital for the first time and also met the son of Mrs Lukić, with whom she was pregnant at the time of the disaster. He expressed disappointment at never having been able to meet Mr Lukić, who had died in 2007. He was portrayed by actor Ben Peel in a 2011 BBC film, United, which was centred around the Munich air disaster.

Gregg made an emotional account of the disaster on a TV programme entitled Munich Air Disaster: I Was There on the National Geographic Channel. In particular it centres around a personal journey for a reunion with Vera Lukić, a Serbian woman (the wife of a Yugoslav diplomat), whom Gregg saved from the wreckage, as well as Vera's baby daughter Vesna. Unknown to Gregg, Vera was also pregnant at the time of the disaster, so Gregg also rescued another life, that of Vera's son Zoran. Gregg was shown meeting Zoran in the documentary One Life: Munich Air Disaster.

In April 2015, the feature-length documentary Spirit of '58 was screened as part of the Belfast Film Festival. It featured interviews with the five surviving members of the Northern Ireland 1958 World Cup squad (Gregg, Billy Bingham, Peter McParland, Jimmy McIlroy and Billy Simpson), as it told the story of their journey throughout the 1950s under the management of Peter Doherty, culminating in the 1958 World Cup.

Personal life

Gregg married his first wife, Mavis Markham, at St James's Church, Doncaster, in 1957, while still a Doncaster Rovers player. Their first child, Linda, was born later that year. A second daughter, Karen, was born a year later. Mavis died of cancer in 1961. On 2 July 1965 Gregg married Carolyn Maunders at St Mary's Parish Church, Rostherne. They had four children: Julie, Jane, Suzanne and John-Henry. He suffered a further tragedy on 24 April 2009, when his daughter Karen died of cancer at the age of 50. Gregg's uncle was the grandfather of fellow footballer Steve Lomas, who played for clubs including Manchester City and West Ham United, and managed the likes of St Johnstone and Millwall.

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

Gregg celebrated his time at Old Trafford on 15 May 2012 with a testimonial organised by John White and John Dempsey from the George Best Carryduff Manchester United SC. The testimonial featured Manchester United playing an Irish League Select XI managed by Martin O'Neill and David Jeffrey. The match ended 4–1 to Manchester United.

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



  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1958
  • FIFA World Cup Best Goalkeeper: 1958

Gregg was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1995, and made an Officer of the Order (OBE) for services to football in the 2019 New Year Honours.

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.

Career statistics



Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Doncaster Rovers 1952–53 Second Division 8 0 0 0 8 0
1953–54 Second Division 2 0 0 0 2 0
1954–55 Second Division 2 0 0 0 2 0
1955–56 Second Division 21 0 3 0 24 0
1956–57 Second Division 40 0 2 0 42 0
1957–58 Second Division 21 0 0 0 21 0
Total 94 0 5 0 99 0
Manchester United 1957–58 First Division 19 0 8 0 4 0 31 0
1958–59 First Division 41 0 1 0 0 0 42 0
1959–60 First Division 33 0 3 0 0 0 36 0
1960–61 First Division 27 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 30 0
1961–62 First Division 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 0
1962–63 First Division 24 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 28 0
1963–64 First Division 25 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 27 0
1964–65 First Division 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1965–66 First Division 26 0 7 0 0 0 5 0 38 0
1966–67 First Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Total 210 0 24 0 2 0 13 0 247 0
Stoke City 1966–67 First Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Career total 306 0 29 0 2 0 13 0 348 0



National team Year Apps Goals
Northern Ireland 1954 1 0
1956 2 0
1957 6 0
1958 6 0
1959 3 0
1960 3 0
1961 2 0
1963 2 0
Total 25 0

Managerial record

Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Shrewsbury Town 1 July 1968 1 October 1972 195 66 55 74 033.8
Swansea City 1 November 1972 1 January 1975 101 34 23 44 033.7
Crewe Alexandra 1 January 1975 31 May 1978 163 53 53 57 032.5
Carlisle United 20 May 1986 17 November 1987 73 20 11 42 027.4
Total 532 173 142 217 032.5
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