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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 13:12 GMT
Gregg's 'greatest save' - Munich remembered
It was the greatest save he ever made.

Former international goalkeeper Harry Gregg, 75, will never forget that day 50 years ago when so many of his friends, among them the Busby Babes, died on a snow laden runway.

Eight Manchester united players died in the Munich air crash
Eight Manchester united players died in the Munich air crash

But he might draw some comfort from the thought of those he pulled from the wreckage.

At 1503 GMT on 6 February 1958, the plane carrying the legendary footballers back from Belgrade crashed in a blizzard after re-fuelling at Munich airport.

Twenty-three people died, including Manchester United players, backroom staff and journalists.

Gregg found himself hailed as a hero after returning to the wreckage to pull out survivors - the goalkeeper's "greatest ever save".

Among those he helped was Vera Lukic, the wife of a Yugoslavian diplomat and her daughter, Vesna.

What he did not know was that Vera was pregnant. And in saving her, he also saved her son, Zoran.

Late last year, he returned to Belgrade and met the man who was not even born when Gregg saved his life.

He sat with Vera Lukic and her family and talked about that day and what it meant to all of them.

Zoran told Gregg: "I have always wanted this moment, to look into your face and say to you, 'thank you'. I was the third passenger you saved, but, at the time, you were not to know that."

Harry Gregg on the old runway where the crash happened
Harry Gregg on the old runway where the crash happened

Gregg replied: "You've nothing to thank me for. I did what had to be done without thinking about it.

"I've lived with being called a hero but I'm not really a hero. Heroes are people who do brave things knowing the consequences of their actions. That day, I had no idea what I was doing."

On the anniversary of the crash, what he would like to remember, he said, are the happy moments before the crash changed everything.

"The fact there's going to be a minute's silence after 50 years is a tribute to the people I played with, but one must remember as well, there were other people on board that aircraft, a lot more people.

"I want the minute's silence to be over and then I want to remember the happy times, that's what I want the world to remember, that's what I want the families to remember.

"I want to remember fighting for the best tracksuits on the training ground, fighting for the best pair of socks. I want to remember the Arsenal game (united beat Arsenal 5-4 at Highbury in their last game in England before the crash).

"And I want to remember the happy, free spirits after the final game (against Red Star Belgrade) and the banquet that night."

Back in his home on the north coast of Ireland, Harry Gregg has pictures on his wall of the crash scene.

A clock at Old Trafford permanently stopped at the time of the crash
A clock at Old Trafford permanently stopped at the time of the crash

Yet they make up only part of what is a vast gallery of shots from his days as a Manchester United player.

And the most prominent pictures on that wall capture a young team, flush with promise, before a glittering future was cruelly snatched away.

"I don't want my life to remembered for what happened on a runway," he said.

"I don't need the sheriff's badge and I don't want to play the hero."

He added: "The wonderful thing to me about that period of time was the freshness of youth and the free spirit, the manner in which we played.

"I'm not a poet but I always think 'they laughed, they loved, they played the game together, they played the game and gave it every ounce of life and the crowds - they thronged to see such free, young spirits'.

"To me that what's I want to remember, that was the wonderful thing."

Re-United is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, February 4 at 10.35pm.

Munich 58 remembered: BBC NI

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