The Flower of Manchester

Written by Gary Smith @Gstar21986

He was once described as the flower of Manchester and yesterday that flower wilted for the last time as Manchester United former goalkeeper Harry Gregg passed away at the age of 87.

Gregg, who was part of the United side for almost a decade was also part of the team who was involved in the Munich Air disaster in in 1958 in which 8 United stars perished.

The Northern Irishman was hailed by many as a hero that day as he pulled several people from the burning wreckage.

Gregg started his footballing career with Linfield`s reserve side before moving to Coleraine, his local side.

Doncaster Rovers came calling in 1952 where he spent five years and made his debut in a 3-3 draw against Blackburn Rovers. Harry had a stroke of bad fortune however when he dislocated his elbow and didn’t feature again until the last few games of the season.

The next two seasons were frustrating for Gregg as he could not force his way past Ken Hardwick who had slotted in as number one.

Harry eventually dislodge Hardwick in January 1956 and made sure that he was the first pick for the 2nd Division side. Gregg did enough to remain in possession of the jersey for the rest of the season.

He was also Northern Ireland’s No.1, winning nine caps while with Rovers and played a huge part in their qualifying campaign for the 1958 World Cup.

To say he was fearless in goals was an understatement as he often played without gloves as well as playing on with injuries, once even with broken fingers.

Manchester United are a massive club over the Irish Sea and when manager Matt Busby was on the lookout for a new goalkeeper he decided Gregg was his man and paid a fee of £23,500 to take Gregg to Old Trafford in December 1957.

In his first season at the club he was involved in one of world footballs biggest ever tragedies when the team were coming back from a European game against Red Star Belgrade. During a stopover from Belgrade and as the plane attempted to take off several times from the runway at Munich airport it soon crashed amid treacherous conditions.

Gregg was on hand to risk life and limb as he pulled not only teammates but other passengers on the aircraft.

Incredibly he was soon back in goal for United playing 13 days after the crash against Sheffield Wednesday. Gregg went on to establish himself as one of United’s greatest players. Incredibly he never actually won a medal at Old Trafford and missed out on the 1963/64 FA Cup final and hadn’t played enough games in the domestic campaign to earn a medal.

By the time he left Old Trafford aged 34 he made the move to Stoke City however it was only a temporary move as he played twice for the Potters before going on to Coaching. He went on to manage Shrewsbury Town, Swansea City, Crewe Alexandra and Carlisle United.

Harry Gregg was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Years Honours List before Passing away yesterday after a short illness.

Image courtesy of Sky Sports

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