Posted by talfanzine on May 21, 2008 at 10:40 AM
The title 'legend' is often conferred too lightly in the world of football, but in the case of Tommy Burns, you could not apply a more apt term to describe the man. From Bhoyhood to youth player to first team regular to manager and coach, Tommy epitomised everything that it is to be a Celt. The man would literally have walked those million miles that we used to sing about for a Celtic goal.

I am not often moved to tears but I have found it extremely to difficult to watch any of the news coverage and tributes in the last couple of days without shedding a few tears each time for TB. A basic goodness shone out of every pore of that man and it almost seems like an injustice that such a good person who spread so much joy and happiness around him should be taken from us at such a relatively early age. I will always cherish the memories I have of Tommy as a player; there were few more committed battlers for the Celtic cause, but also he was a fine footballer with a beautiful left pin that scored many a crucial goal from his attacking midfield position. He quite literally lived and breathed this great club of ours.

I was brought up in my early years in the Calton (my first primary school was, like Tommy's, St Mary's Primary) before our tenement was demolished and my family moved out of the area. By the time I started secondary school at St Mungo's Academy, Tommy was already breaking through the ranks at Celtic. He was well-known among all the lads at school, especially the bhoys that were still living in the Calton area.

During the summer holidays, cos my ma and da worked full-time, I used to go and stay with my auntie who lived in the high flats at Helenvale Street between Celtic Park and the Training Ground behind the CSA Club on London Road. The players used to turn up early in the morning at Celtic Park, get changed and then jog along London Road to the training ground. There would always be a posse of wee bhoys from the high flats waiting for them passing by... this was when there was Lisbon Lions still in the squad, plus guys like Kenny Dalglish and later on, the young Tommy Burns. I always remember that the players would always stop if a kid asked them something about the next match, or for an autograph. My memory of guys like Jinky, King Kenny and TB was standing watching as they passed, being completely in awe of them. They'd come by with their studs clicking on the concrete pavement and always say "Awright Wee Man..." as they passed.

Anyway, years later, before TB came back as manager of Celtic, I was standing selling T?L at Hampden (pretty sure it was a cup final match) and Tommy Burns and other members of his family came by, he stopped to buy a fanzine and I said "It's ok Tommy, you don't have to pay..." and gave him one. He said. "Thanks very much Wee Man..." As he walked away, I shouted, "You've been calling me Wee Man for 25 years..." and he shouts back, "Aye, but you've been wee for more than 25 years!"

When he took over as manager he was always available to the fans, just as he was when he was a player. I remember him sitting down with me and my mate when we were following Celtic on a pre-season tour of Germany in 1995 while he was manager. We'd asked him and the players to sign a 'Celtic Fans Against Fascism' T-shirt and Tommy said that he didn't see the point as he didn't think the club had any real problem with racism or fascism. We agreed with him, but pointed out that was because folk like us had been vigilant about it by reinforcing the traditions of the club and its own immigrant roots. Next thing he's sitting having a political discussion with us and then he turns round and says, "Ok lads, you've convinced me to sign it - give me the T-shirt and I'll get a few of the players to sign it as well."

That's the kind of guy he was, never dismissive, never aloof, always prepared to sit down with the supporters.... and that is why he is universally loved by the whole Celtic family around the world. Guys like Tommy Burns are few and far between these days at Celtic Park, but he more than anyone else has left us his legacy in the youth academy and the young players that he personally nurtured over the last few years who have now, like him in his time, broken through the ranks and into the first team squad. Those players bear a heavy burden of responsibility if they intend to emulate and become true Celtic Legends like Tommy Burns. The dignity shown so far by the players and the manager Gordon Strachan who I thought spoke with tremendous emotion about the man who had become a great friend to him in the last 3 years at Celtic shows just how much of the real spirit of Celtic Tommy Burns had passed on to them.

Mention must also be made with regard to the way that the rangers' coaching staff have reacted with and sincere grief and sorrow at the news of Tommy's passing. It must be hoped that the outpouring of genuine emotion shown by Tommy's former coaching colleagues, Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Ally McDowall will have an effect on those rangers fans who still live their lives based on centuries old hatred. Tommy Burns transcended the antagonisms of the so-called 'Old Firm'. His life; the attitudes and brotherhood that he promoted are an example to us all.

Tommy - you will never be forgotten by us.

Your spirit lives on in the heart of every Celtic supporter.

Rest In Peace.

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Reply BothieBhoy
6:01 AM on May 18, 2009 
Great article that sums Tommy up perfectly - anyone who agrees might like to visit www.justgiving.com/bothiebhoys and listen to our TB tribute song, which we hope captures the essence of a great man and legendary Celt. The site will remain open until 3rd June for charitable contributions in favour of the Skin Cancer Research Fund.