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Tommy Burns - Celtic Personified
Celtic have never been short of heroes. From great goal-scorers like Quinn, McGrory and Larsson to wonderful entertainers like Gallacher, Tully and Johnstone. Along with managerial gods Maley and Stein these players will forever be regarded as legends by the Parkhead faithful.
But of all the Parkhead greats there is surely no one who personifies Celtic Football Club more than the Bhoy from the Calton – Tommy Burns.
Born and raised in the shadow of Celtic Park Tommy Burns would devote much of his life to the club which had, from his very earliest days, meant so much to him. A graduate of the Celtic youth system, Tommy would go on to play 502 games for the Hoops.
A cultured left-footed midfielder, Tommy’s plentiful skills were complimented by his passion and commitment. He was a talented ball player and during his time as a player at Parkhead he picked up six championship winners medals, four Scottish Cup gongs and was a League Cup winner.
After departing for Kilmarnock at the end of 1989 Tommy would return to Paradise as manager in 1994. Under Burns Celtic would enchant their support with fast, flowing, attacking football in the best traditions of the club. Tommy’s Celtic thrilled the heart yet sadly they just lacked the defensive steel – and luck – needed to turn plaudits into trophies. He did however end a near 6-year trophy famine when he guided the club to a Scottish Cup triumph in 1995.
Tommy was dismissed as manager by Fergus McCann in 1997, when his team failed to prevent Rangers equalling Celtic’s record of nine league titles in a row. This decision was met by significant protests from supporters who still believed Tommy was the right man for the job. They wanted Tommy to continue leading the fight for what he would later describe as ‘the cause’.
Burns would manage at Reading and coach at Newcastle but his heart was always at Celtic. So it was with delight that he returned to the club in 2000 where he was put in charge of the youth set-up. The youngsters at Celtic Park could not have asked for a better role model.
He would later move up to join the senior coaching staff as well as be assistant coach of Scotland. Then in 2006 Tommy was diagnosed with skin cancer. Following treatment it appeared Tommy had won his fight against the disease and he remained a hugely influential figure in a Celtic side now dominating Scottish football.
Tragically the cancer would return and in May 2008 Tommy passed away. His death at just 51-years-old touched millions and Celtic supporters were joined by football fans around the world in mourning the loss of a true gentleman.
When it came to his love for Celtic, Tommy wore his heart on his sleeve. His affection for the club was both honest and immense and you only had to watch him play or listen to him speak to know his devotion for the club came exclusively from the heart. Witty and a born entertainer, Tommy’s red hair hinted at a fiery temper and there was no doubt that on the pitch and in the boardroom he could have his moments.
But while Tommy the player and manager was committed and passionate, Tommy the man was humble and compassionate. The humility, integrity and honesty which moulded the man meant he was never one to hold a grudge. His family were everything to Tommy who was also a deeply religious man. Tommy’s faith was a precious part of his life and his devotion to his own religion was matched by his respect of others.
Loving, generous, respectful and compassionate - Tommy Burns was everything Celtic should stand for.
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