Date: 15th May 2008 at 1:11pm
Written by:

Shocking news to hear this morning that Tommy Burns had died of cancer at the ridiculously young age of 51.

There had been rumours flying around lately that Burns was in a bad way but I never really took them all that seriously, assuming that he’d eventually get himself
back into fine health. It just goes to show you how quickly that this horrendous disease can work.

I always liked Tommy Burns. Although I never actually met the man I always felt he came across publicly as a very genuine and honest person – someone who wore his heart on his sleeve and didn’t
mind letting people know how he felt about something. These are qualities to be hugely admired in a person and although they didn’t always help him professionally, to me he was a ‘better’ man than many in football who have achieved much more because of them.

I don’t remember a great deal about Burns the player. I do recall him being quite a cultured left-sided midfielder who had good vision and decent dig on him……….and I also remember him having a wee touch of aggression in him too if it was required (just as his Celtic team-mates Aitken and McStay used to as well!).

But when I think of Tommy Burns I will always immediately think of his post-match interviews when he was in charge of Celtic. They really were the thing of legend at times due to the previous emotions I was referring to, and similarly to those in the article we composed earlier in the week about managers having a rant after matches (Levein, Keegan, etc), Burns certainly boasted a few gems of his own. One in particular when he was getting a hard time from Chick Young (I think) about a controversial defeat stands out – he simply answered the two questions he allowed Young to ask with ‘it’s a grand old team tae play for’! A sure sign that tensions were taking their toll but top entertainment nonetheless!

But I don’t just remember Burns as a manager because of his interviews – it’s also to do with the way that his teams played football. I think I’m probably right in saying that during his time as Celtic manager Burns never won a league Championship, but despite that his Celtic teams consistently played arguably the best football I’ve ever seen in the SPL. Sure, the Rangers sides they were up against then had some great players in them (Gascoigne, Laudrup, etc) and at times were decent to watch for how their individuals could perform, but for me Burns’ Celtic were infinitely more pleasing on the eye in the way they functioned as a team. His signings of Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Paolo Di Canio and Jorge Cadete were inspired at that time and formed the attacking core of that side, but the way their full-backs (McNamara and McKinlay – also both Burns signings?) doubled as wingers added to that threat considerably and Celtic used to just fire wave after wave of attacks at teams in that era.

Ultimately this wasn’t enough to win a title, but to be fair to Burns his side didn’t exactly get the breaks when it counted in the head-to-head matches against Rangers, and he was also unfortunate that his team came up against Andy Goram at a time in his career when ‘The Goalie’ could literally do no wrong in the Old Firm fixture.

Sadly it would appear that this philosophy on football has not been popular in Scotland since with the top clubs, as it’s doubtful if any of the league-winning sides since then have played the game in quite the same flamboyant way as that one did, which is obviously a shame.

Burns’ passing is a big loss to Scottish football but this will pale into insignificance compared to the effect it’s bound to have on his family and friends. Our thoughts are with them at this tragic time. RIP Tommy.


11 Replies to “Tommy Burns RIP”

  • Nice tribute Mr.H, means a lot mate. Its comforting to know that other fans thought so highly of Tommy and I’m sure even Rangers fans will pay tributes to him. He was just a truly great man, a gentleman. He would never have wished harm on anybody, a remarkable person, a kind, humble, gentle and humane person. Football has lost a great man, Celtic has lost a great man but his family have the greatest loss of all. Thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. God bless Tommy, Rest In Peace. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

  • It’s a terrible thing when someone young gets hit with a life-threatening disease. TB was a fine player, and diginified manager/coach – giving great service to one club (and then a wee swansong at Kilmarnock).

  • shocking to see that the Vital Celtic site hasn’t doen a tribute to one of the gentleman of football! RIP Tommy!

  • Mr.H please delete that thoughtless comment from Merlin. Its obvious our editor has not yet been on to post a tribute.

  • Merlin ,, Mr H has constructed a very poignant tribute in very little time ,, which is to be commended ,, but our editor is duty bound to compile an altogether different tribute in regard to it,s Celtic perspective ,, which right now he will be finding rather difficult whilst trying like the rest of the Celtic contingent to come to terms with the sheer enormity of the situation ,, please have the good grace to afford Jamie 1967 the opportunity to post a fitting tribute in line with Tommy,s Celtic stature ,, and once again ,, many thanks to Hearts vital for their sterling efforts to acknowledge a true gentleman ,, it,s very much appreiciated ………..

  • Thanks for those sentiments MrH, I think Jamie is away from home at the moment and although I’m a moderator on Vital-Celtic I cant publish articles. As for Merlin…

  • I fully expect Vital Celtic to write a much more fitting tribute than this in the fullness of time. It’s not always possible for site editors to get articles on as soon as something major happens – unfortunately we actually have real jobs to do as well! Looking forward to Jamie’s article….

  • Id like to Echo what Tic, wb, and rk have said. Hats off to you MrH, a very fitting tribute to a great man in football but more importantly a Great man. One of the best.

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