Harry Gregg paid tribute to the man who inspired him as a lad on the launch of the Harry Gregg Foundation at the University of Ulster, Coleraine on Thursday night.
That man is Peter Doherty, or Peter ‘The Great’ as Harry refers to the man who played as an inside left for Glentoran, Manchester City, Blackpool Derby and Doncaster Rovers amongst others.
Doherty signed Gregg when he was player-manager of Rovers and also guided the gifted goalkeeper to the World Cup Finals of Sweden 1958 as manager of Northern Ireland.
Doherty remains an inspiration to Gregg to this day and he willingly put his name to the Foundation in Coleraine in the hope that perhaps more young people can fall in love with the game just as he did.
“The most important thing for me is that young children should be left to grow in the game like flowers in the garden,” said Gregg last night.
“They will develop their own way before they need any coaching, the young people of the day should be able to dream of being a footballer, as I once did on the streets of Coleraine and surrounding
“Tell them about Peter ‘The Great’, the man who lived at the Station Gates just around the corner from me, just a few hundred yards.
“He was the King, he was the man and the footballer I wanted to be when I was ten, for he was the best player ever to play for Northern Ireland.
“We didn’t have TVs in those days but we heard and read about his exploits in England, winning the league with City and the Cup with Derby.
“We used to wander around the Station Gates in the hope of glimpsing this wonderful man, this hero of mine.
“Bill Shankly used to call him ‘The Ginger Tom’, and said he never got a kick against him; ‘he was stopping them, starting them and scoring them, that was Peter Doherty’ he used to say.
“He inspired me and I hope young people can get the same enjoyment that I was lucky enough to have in my lifetime in the game.”
Harry prefers to talk about the game rather than himself but had plenty of stars from all strands of Northern Ireland society beating a path to The Diamond in the university last night for the official launch of the Foundation, a charity attached to the Coleraine Academy.
James Nesbitt was in attendance to pay tribute as did Eamon Holmes via video link. From the world of sport, former Premiership star Steven Lomas was joined by local heroes such as David Jeffrey, Dessie Dickson, Victor Hunter, Marty Quinn, Packie McAllister and current Coleraine manager Oran Kearney to pay tribute to a true sporting icon.
FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce addressed an audience of hundreds last night and was joined to pay tribute by Stephen Watson, Liam Beckett, Adrian Logan, Alan Simpson and comedians John Linehan and Alan McKee.