Harry Gregg dead: Former Manchester United goalkeeper and hero of Munich air disaster dies, aged 87

Legendary former goalkeeper rescued Sir Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower, Dennis Viollet, Sir Matt Busby and others from the burning wreckage of the 1958 Munich air disaster

Jack de Menezes
Monday 17 February 2020 08:13 GMT
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Manchester United great Harry Gregg dies aged 87

Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg, a survivor of the 1958 Munich air disaster, has died, aged 87.

The Harry Gregg Foundation announced his passing on Monday morning, which prompted an outpouring of tributes for a man known commonly as ‘the hero of Munich’ for his actions after the tragedy 62 years ago.

Twenty-three people died in the accident on 6 February 1958 when the aeroplane carrying the Manchester United squad and staff crashed on its third attempt to take off at the Munich-Riem Airport. Gregg twice returned to the burning fuselage to drag both teammates and strangers to safety, which included Sir Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet, as well as manager Sir Matt Busby and the pregnant wife of a Yugoslav diplomat and her 20-month-old daughter.

"It is with great sorrow that we inform of the death of Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend Harry Gregg, OBE," the Harry Gregg Foundation said in a statement posted on Facebook.

"Harry passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by his loving family.

"The Gregg family would like to thank the medical staff at Causeway Hospital for their wonderful dedication to Harry over his last few weeks. To everyone who has called, visited or sent well wishes we thank you for the love and respect shown to Harry and the family.

"Details of his funeral arrangement will be issued in the next few days.

"We would ask that the privacy of the family is respected at this difficult time. Never to be forgotten!"

Harry Gregg rescued a number of teammates from the Munich air disaster wreckage in 1958
Harry Gregg rescued a number of teammates from the Munich air disaster wreckage in 1958 (PA)

Gregg became the world's most expensive keeper when United, and Sir Matt Busby, shelled out £23,000 in 1957 and was voted the best at the World Cup a year later.

He spent nine years with the Red Devils and, although he never won a medal with the club, injury having ruled him out of the 1963 FA Cup final and restricted his appearances in two title-winning campaigns, an unforgettable career was forged.

In all he played 247 times for United, including, incredibly, a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday just 13 days after the Munich tragedy.

Harry Gregg made more than 200 appearances for Manchester United
Harry Gregg made more than 200 appearances for Manchester United (PA)

He eventually left Old Trafford for the briefest of stopovers at Stoke and a underwhelming managerial career followed, with spells in charge of Shrewsbury, Swansea, Crewe and Carlisle.

Gregg played 25 times for Northern Ireland.

Additional reporting by PA

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