Friday, December 2, 2022

The legacy of Tommy Burns will live on.

Graham Fisher in Editorial, Scottish Premier League 16 May 2008


Tommy Burns was a legend in the game and was one of the few men from Glasgow who managed to be loved, or at least respected, by both sides of the ’Old Firm’.

Despite being Celtic, through and through, Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist recently said about him, “He is an absolute gentleman. You would never hear anybody in football say a bad word about Tommy Burns. To have been involved in football for so long, that’s quite an accolade.”

Burns, aged only fifty-one, lost his battle against skin cancer yesterday which had first struck him in 2006 and was then diagnosed again in March this year.

The midfield player who gained eight caps for Scotland was with Celtic from 1974 until 1989. He then went to Kilmarnock where he played over one hundred and fifty games, many as a player/manager.

He then returned to Celtic to manage his old club for three years in the mid-nineties. After just failing to end the dominance of rivals Rangers, although winning the Scottish Cup, Burns had a short spell in charge of Reading.

Burns was appointed assistant manager to the Scottish national team under Bertie Vogts, and retained his position under Walter Smith. He then returned to Celtic as youth development officer and then became a coach under Gordon Strachan, a role he combined with his youth position.

He was one of the favourites for the Scottish national team manager role when Alex McLeish resigned, but Burns severed all ties with Scotland to concentrate on his role at Celtic.

As a player, Burns won six Scottish League Premier Division titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup. As a manager he achieved promotion with Kilmarnock and won the Scottish Cup with Celtic.

The death of Tommy Burns has hit many people at Celtic and throughout the game of football very hard. He was a much loved, admired and respected figure within the game.

A Celtic statement released yesterday said, “Tommy, a true Celtic legend and wonderful man will be sadly missed by us all. Clearly, our thoughts are very much with Tommy’s wife, Rosemary, and his family at this extremely difficult time.”

The secretary of the Association of Celtic Supporters Clubs said, “Celtic was a big part of his life, but the biggest part of his life was his family. He became a grandfather a few weeks ago and that is the biggest tragedy. Legend is a word that is used quite a lot these days, but he was. He was a great player with Celtic first and foremost. He was a manager who played football the way Celtic supporters like to see it.”

A statement issued by the Scottish Football Association read, “Everyone at the Scottish FA would like to pass on their condolences to the family of Tommy Burns at this very sad time. Tommy’s passing is a great loss and he will be sadly missed by us all. He was a true gentleman and a magnificent ambassador for Scottish football.”

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan paid an emotional tribute to his assistant manager, “He radiated every time he walked into a room, however you were feeling you felt better when Tommy was about, and we will miss him. It’s not the same when he’s not here. The best thing I ever did when I came here was make Tommy assistant manager, for his intelligence, common sense and humour. He kept me sane at times, it was just a privilege to be in his company every day. There is absolutely no doubt about it I have laughed every day since I joined Celtic. His memory will make me feel good now he’s not here.”

Burns made well over three hundred appearances for Celtic as a player and served at the club in one role or another for twenty years.

The esteem in which was and will always be held was summed up by the words of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Tommy Burns, and my thoughts are with his family and friends. His death robs Scottish football of one of its most inspirational figures of modern times and one of the nicest people in football. He will go down as one of the all-time great players for Glasgow Celtic. His belief in good football shone through in his time as Celtic manager, as well as in his service for Scotland and Kilmarnock. But perhaps most of all it was his passion and love for his family and for life itself that made Tommy so inspiring. He will be sadly missed by us all.”

The word ‘legend’ is one of those words that is used far too often to describe the good and even the average. It is thrown around like the words ‘great’ and ‘world class’. Make no mistake, Tommy Burns was a genuine legend, and everyone who has met him, played for him or worked with him, will tell you that he was one of the best.

R.I.P. Tommy Burns. You were a gentleman and a great.


Graham Fisher



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Van Basten
Van Basten
14 years ago

I must admit that I’m not very familiar with the player. Still sad and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

14 years ago

What a sad lose to scottish football god bless

14 years ago

Glasgow Celtic and Scottish football as a whole have lost a huge part of their future.

If only i could hope to be half the man you were.

God Bless Tommy

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