With England reaching the World Cup Finals in Brazil, we look back at one of our famous international keepers from the 50’s who went on to make his name at Manchester United, Harry Gregg.
Harry joined Manchester United in January 1957 for a then World Record Fee for a keeper reputed to be around £24,000. Just two months later Gregg was lucky to escape the Munich air disaster with just an injured nose, but he proved to be one of the many heroes on that terrible night, returning to the wreckage of the plane to rescue stricken team-mates, a baby and a pregnant woman.
Harry joined Rovers in 1952 from Northern Ireland side Coleraine where he was already a Schoolboy International. Peter Doherty had spotted a young Harry playing in a junior game in Linfield, Northern Ireland, as a 14 year old in 1946, and as soon as he became manager of Rovers, he went after him. He went on to make 99 appearances for Rovers. He began to attract the attention of bigger clubs with his impressive appearances for Rovers and also at international level. One of Peter Doherty’s last managerial duties at the club was to sanction Gregg’s transfer to Manchester.
In 1958 Harry went to the World Cup Finals in Sweden. Northern Ireland, with Harry as imposing and vocal as ever in goal, punched above their weight in Sweden, finishing second in their group despite losing to Argentina in the second match. After holding world champions West Germany to a 2-2 draw, Czechoslovakia were beaten in a play-off and Northern Ireland joined Wales in the quarter-finals (England failed to make the knock-out phase). They lost in the Quarter Final 4-0 to France but Harry was put in the Team of the Tournament and voted best goalkeeper at the finals.