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Tommy Burns Tribute match in aid of Tommy Burns Skin Cancer Trust

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I would like to pay tribute and also draw your attention to a match this Sunday in aid of the Tommy Burns Skin Cancer Trust.

Players from Maryhill Juniors and a Celtic select will take to the field on Sunday afternoon at Lochburn Park at 3 o’clock to pay tribute to one of Celtic Football Club’s finest players, Tommy Burns.

As football players come and go, Tommy Burns was a gem and a gentleman of a guy. Tommy wasn’t one of your flashy footballers, who did not have time for anyone, In fact he was exactly the opposite.

Tommy always said he was just a fan who got lucky and who lived the dream.

He was living the dream for Celtic fans young and old but as well as living the dream he was the perfect role model for any young kid to look up to.

From his early days at primary school right through his St.Mungo’s Academy, St.Mary’s Boy’s Guild, Eastercraig Amateurs, had all had the benefit of Tommy’s early football skills and surely it would only be a matter of time before someone
would notice the ginger haired talent?

In 1970 his dreams and prayers were about to come true, well almost!

Tommy was only 13 when Celtic asked the question and before too long TB would be signing an S –form with his boyhood heroes.

In 1973 Tommy signed his first professional contract with the club that meant so much to him, they could have offered him millions, they could have offered him ten bob, and truth is Tommy would have played for nothing!

Tommy was then sent out to Maryhill Juniors but on April 19th 1975 an 18-year-old Tommy Burns made his Hoops debut after replacing Paul Wilson in a 2-1 defeat at home to Dundee.

Tommy would go on to play for the club for 14 years and has seen the good and the bad times at Celtic Park.

A boy from the Calton area of Glasgow born only a short distance from the place fondly known as “Paradise”, Tommy was a boy who would live the dream.

Six Premier League medals, three Scottish Cup medals, one League Cup winner’s medal and he was involved in the Celtic side which won the Centenary Double in 1988 under Billy McNeill.

Tommy was a special player in a special team but the surprising thing was that he only earned eight caps for Scotland despite his natural talent.

His feelings about Celtic were best summed up in this quote, “Playing for Celtic is not just playing for a football team; it is playing for a people and a cause!”

Life after Celtic took Tommy to Kilmarnock, were he was signed as a player by Jim Fleeting and Tommy helped the club to the First Division in his first season at the club.

In 1992, Tommy would become player-manager and he helped the club win promotion to the Premier League.

In 1994 the emotional pull of Celtic is too much to resist and both Tommy and his friend Billy Stark become the new management team at Celtic Park.

Under Tommy, Celtic would play some of the most attractive football seen at Celtic Park, the kind of flowing attacking football that Celtic have been renowned for over the years but unfortunately for Tommy, Rangers under Walter Smith were a tough nut To crack, as previous Celtic managers had found out to their cost.

Players like Goram, Gough, Gazza and McCoist and a Dane called Laudrup who would tease and torment many a defence, would prove too much for Celtic over the course of a season as they where striding towards nine in a row.

A Coca Cola Cup Final defeat to First Division Raith Rovers on penalties and only a Scottish Cup Final win over Airdrie (1-0) was Tommy’s only success as Celtic manager as Rangers closed in on Celtic’s nine-in-a-row record.

In 1996 Celtic only lost one match but still lost the title to Rangers and the pressure on Tommy was added to when Rangers won all four matches and he was sacked in the 1997 season, many felt that Tommy should have been given more time but he was gone.

Tommy may have left Celtic Park then but he would always be a fan no matter where he was or which club he was at, everybody knew that.

But neither football nor time stands still and Tommy had to move on.

Spells at Newcastle and Reading proved unsuccessful but Tommy returned home in 2000 to help Kenny Dalglish and as Martin O Neill came north, Tommy was given A role with youth development, a role that he would relish indeed as Gordon Strachan
Arrived at Celtic, Tommy was given the role as first team coach, no matter who has been in charge over the past few years at Celtic, they had always wanted Tommy by their side that says something about the man and what he knows and means to Celtic.

Tommy was also involved with the international scene as assistant to Berti Vogts who after a turbulent time in charge of the national side was replaced by Walter Smith but not before Tommy had a taste of management on the International scene as he was caretaker manager as the team lost 4-1 to Sweden.

Even as Berti Vogts took a hammering from the Scottish press, Tommy always stood by the German even in his darkest hours that is the measure of the man.

The Scottish Press, took great pleasure in battering the little German during his time in charge of the national side but Tommy said that “rapists and paedophile’s” were given an easier time than the man in charge of the national side, Berti appreciated Tommy’s loyal support but knew that there was nothing Tommy could do to save him and soon he was gone.

Tommy stayed loyal to Walter during his time in charge of the national side and formed a great backroom team with his old firm rivals Walter Smith and Ally McCoist.

They may have been Old Firm rivals, but Walter Smith knew that Tommy was a good coach and a very decent human being and he would enjoy having him at his side and on his side, with Ally McCoist alongside him.

When Walter and Ally went back to Rangers, many felt that Tommy could be given the chance to take the national job on but Alex McLeish was given the nod and Tommy devoted his time to Celtic.

Working with the team he loved and seeing many promising players mature through the youth system was something that was close to Tommy’s heart.

He was a constant campaigner for the Lennoxtown training facility that Celtic now have at their disposal and hopefully the club will benefit from it for many years to come.

Tommy had other things on his mind as he was receiving treatment for melanoma and using the eczema cream amazon since he also suffered from skin burn, a form of skin cancer and had two lumps removed from his leg, many thought that Tommy would now be clear of his illness but unfortunately that was not to be
As further treatment had been received but to no avail and Tommy passed away at home.

The Celtic family had lost one of their own and a river of tears our a thousand words could not ease the pain that everyone connected with the club felt on that day and even still to this day, it is so hard to believe than he has gone.

Former Rangers manager Walter Smith said, Tommy was “Everything that was good about Celtic Football Club”.

Celtic manager at the time Gordon Strachan, was very emotional and shaken when he spoke about Tommy’s passing: “Being Tommy’s mate was the best part of joining Celtic.”

“As a footballer there were not many better than him and as a person he was top of the league when it comes to being a man.”

Many things have been said and written about Tommy, he was a special person, unique, funny, had a great voice when he was singing his favourite song-Mac the Knife, a talented footballer, family man and devout Catholic.

As those who make the trip to Lochburn on Sunday to pay tribute to one of their favourite sons, remember one thing. Tommy would have wanted us to smile as we remember him and remember one thing, in the words of the song:

“And they gave us James McGrory and Paul McStay,
They gave us Johnstone, Tully, Murdoch, Auld and Hay,
And most of the football greats,
have passed through Parkhead’s gates,
all to play football the Glasgow Celtic way”

Tommy did played his football as a player and as a manager the Glasgow Celtic way and that is why he was loved and is still loved by many around the world.

Tommy will never walk alone!

Maryhill v Celtic Old Bhoys
Lochburn Park Kick off 3pm
Sunday 24th July 2011

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About Author

Chief Features Writer for Scotzine.com. Sean has written for various publications and websites over the years and has been involved with making documentaries on Aberdeen Football Club, Dundee United Football Club, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lambert and Jock Stein and also Radio programmes, one of which "Old Firm Day" won a Bronze Sony Award. He also worked in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. His love of writing started off with The Punter and has gone on to write for the following FIFA magazine, 442, Scotland's Oracle, Players Inc, British Football Week, ESPN, Give Me Football, Inside Futbol, 67 Fanzine and the matchday programmes of Aberdeen, Carlisle United, Montrose, Partick Thistle, Stockport County and Queen's Park. He has also been asked to write a blog for Youth Football Scotland on St.Mirren YFC such was his passion for football at every level from Grassroots to the professional game.

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