Plans for statue for Munich survivor Gregg

Harry Gregg
Harry Gregg

Councillors are to be urged to endorse plans to erect a statue to Northern Ireland goalkeeping legend Harry Gregg, it emerged on Tuesday.

Friends of the former Manchester United star want a bronze tribute constructed in his home town of Coleraine, Co Londonderry.

Gregg, 80, lives in retirement in the countryside outside neighbouring Castlerock.

A report prepared by Richard Baker, director of corporate affairs, is to be studied by the council’s leisure and environment committee.

“It is up to them to assess the feasibility and viability of such a project and to decide where to go after that.”

Most of the funding for the statue which is likely to cost in the region of £100,000 would have to come from public donations.

A statue to one of Gregg’s former Northern Ireland teammates Bertie Peacock, also a Coleraine man was unveiled near the town centre in July 2007 - three years after he died, aged 76.

Gregg won 25 international caps and made 247 appearances for United during the Matt Busby era. He emerged a hero in the 1958 Munich Air disaster when he risked his life to pull free some of his teammates.

David McClarty, a Coleraine councillor and independent member of the Northern Ireland Assembly said: “It is something Harry rarely talks about, but everybody is aware of his heroics that day.

“He is one of life’s great characters. You never talk to Harry, you just sit back and listen. He is a fantastic individual who has done an awful lot for soccer in this area, especially youth football, after he returned home from England. I’d be ultra supportive.”

A small steering committee which is expected to be set up in a bid to advance the scheme may include Liam Beckett, a former Irish League player and now a BBC Radio Ulster soccer pundit who is one of Gregg’s closest friends and heavily involved in preliminary discussions.

Maurice Bradley, a Democratic Unionist Party member of the council who has also pledged his backing for the statue said: “Harry Gregg is as much a hero in Coleraine as he is in Manchester. He remains as passionate about soccer now as he did more than 60 years ago. He eats, sleeps and breathes the game.

“I think it is only right to get on with it now while Harry is still with us.

“An awful lot of money will have to be raised, and I think it is vital that someone like Liam, who is as close to Harry as anybody, is centrally involved. We’ll get the steering committee up and running and then see how we go.”