Harry Gregg was at Carlisle United for a relatively short time but nobody was left in doubt about the aura of the man. “He could charm the room, that’s one thing he could do,” says John Halpin, who was coached and managed by Gregg at Brunton Park in the 1980s.

“He was one of those people who had something there, something about him. You always knew he was in the room, because he was a big, big presence, a big personality. And he was a decent fella with it.”

Halpin, now Carlisle’s community sports trust manager, remembers Gregg captivating players and colleagues with “great stories” aplenty about his Manchester United and Northern Ireland days, which included appearances in the 1958 World Cup.

Just the one subject remained untouched. It is not surprising, knowing the modesty of Gregg but also the gravity and traumatic nature of the subject, that his memories of the Munich air disaster remained mostly within.

“Everybody had an interest in it, because everybody knew about it and wanted to know, especially in the dressing room, what went on,” Halpin says, remembering the man who, it was announced today, has died at the age of 87.

“But he genuinely didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it and I think lads respected that, for obvious reasons.

“He lost his friends and colleagues in the disaster. Everybody kept away from it and didn’t push it, and he certainly didn’t broach it at any time; certainly I never heard him broach it at any time he was at the club.

“All I do know, for a fact, is that he did say he carried it with him every day.”

Gregg’s obituaries, as they are drafted today, inevitably and rightly focus on the aftermath of Munich. The goalkeeper, the final line of defence behind Matt Busby’s magnificent Babes, returned to the wreckage of the plane and helped pull team-mates and other passengers to safety, after British European Airways Flight 609 had crashed on the slush-covered runway.

Twenty-three people died; Gregg, one of the 21 who did not, would later speak of his “survivor’s guilt” whilst insisting that he was “no hero”. That latter view is being respectfully disputed across football today and there was certainly no doubting that, in the 80s, a football man of rare stature had arrived at Carlisle.

He had joined the club during Bob Stokoe’s second reign, stepping up as manager after United’s relegation to the Third Division in 1986. The subsequent season, with 53-year-old Gregg as manager, was not a success, since Carlisle slipped to a further relegation in an era when hardship truly returned to Brunton Park.

Halpin, though, chooses to remember the context of that time – and also some of the lasting good that Gregg did even in difficult days.

“He was certainly different,” says the former winger of Gregg. “He was a different type of manager from anybody I’d ever worked for before or have since.

“He had his own ideas on how it should be done, how things should work, and he stuck to it rigidly. On the training ground you listened to it, got your head down and got on with it.

“He was also one of those types of guys whose office you could go into, have an argument or a debate with him, and when it was finished, that was it.

“There was no umbrage, no grudges held at all. He was great like that. He was very straightforward talking, and if he had to say something, don’t worry about it, you knew about it. But that was fine.”

“One thing he certainly was,” Halpin adds, “was an excellent man-manager. He would look after you personally, on and off the pitch. He would be there for you and he would help you, and he would take an interest.”

Carlisle, in Gregg’s time, had some fine players, such as Ian Bishop and Halpin himself, but had negative momentum and not, it turned out, the means to reverse their decline. The 86/7 season saw United score just 39 goals in 46 league games, their lowest-ever return, and crowds fell in accordance with some of the barren football. After a tough first three months of the 1987/8 campaign, in Division Four, Gregg was sacked.

“It was a really difficult time for him,” adds Halpin, who missed parts of both those seasons with injury. “The playing staff weren’t there, and Harry probably didn’t get the players that he wanted to bring in, as most managers would probably say.

“He’d been at a massive club in Manchester United and one or two other clubs that had done okay. He was a winner – he was proven as a winner as a player – and he wanted to do well with Carlisle. Unfortunately the club probably couldn’t give him the ammunition he needed to drive it forward.

“As we say all the time, results are everything in football. No matter who you are, if results are not going well, eventually it will catch up with you.

“But Harry was certainly committed, and I know he loved the area. He told me a few times how he loved the area.”

When Gregg was dismissed by Carlisle, another great football man in Ivor Broadis wrote with perspective on the challenges the Northern Irishman had faced, and, first-team results notwithstanding, referred to the other important ways he had tried to improve the Blues.

Halpin is certain that in one significant department at least, he left a long, true legacy.

“Harry was instrumental in starting off what they called then the centre of excellence,” he says.

“He was big into bringing youth players forward. He loved working with the young lads. They started off in the Neil Sports Centre, and Harry would come in on a Tuesday night and work with the young kids. He loved doing that.

“He was a passionate supporter about youth football and getting young lads into the game and the first team.

“When you think about that, the steps he put in, initially, are still bearing fruit today. We’re still bringing youth players through, and you can talk about lads like Matt Jansen, Rory Delap, through to the likes of Jarrad Branthwaite from our academy in recent times.

“It all started because Harry put the foundation in and Clive [Middlemass, Gregg’s successor] carried it on from that. Harry was certainly the one that laid the foundations for what’s going on today.”

Jansen, for one, has spoken about his encounters with Gregg in the Neil Centre in his first formative days. The future Premier League attacker, whose dad Mat was a centre of excellence coach, would, at a very young age, hurl himself enthusiastically about in goal on the hard artificial pitch, under Gregg’s admiring gaze. The goalkeeping great would encourage the pint-sized Jansen by telling him he could one day be as good as Lev Yashin.

Gregg later took this instinct to help young people in football into the creation of his own foundation, back in his homeland. Having initially managed Shrewsbury, Swansea and Crewe, the Carlisle job was his last in the front line. His parting was, for a time, acrimonious, although he later had a hand in introducing Michael Knighton to the skint club - and, it appears, took away good thoughts from Cumbria which were long-lasting.

“I met him a couple of times after he’d left the club,” Halpin says, “and he was just the same. He came back in as if he’d never been away, and he had that big personality, chatting away, holding court.

“But he was very humble with it. He wasn’t one of these men who was, ‘Look at me, I’ve arrived’ – he wasn’t that type of person at all.” The type of person he was merits the tribute Carlisle are giving him this weekend, with a minute’s silence: a pause in time for a football hero whose scars were ever-present but worn with a poignant dignity, and a man of quite considerable stature.