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  • Tommy Burns: The supporter who got lucky

    Tommy Burns: The supporter who got lucky

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 15 May, 2018 08:01

  • TEN years ago today, on May 15, 2008, Tommy Burns passed away. He was just 51-years-old. The loss was one felt by the whole Celtic family though, of course, the greatest loss belonged to his wife, Rosemary and his four children, Emma, Jenna, Michael and Jonathan. And on this anniversary, as always, our thoughts and prayers remain with them.

    Tommy Burns was a public figure, known and loved by Celtic supporters young and old, but he was a husband and father, and also a grandfather, and his family miss him in ways that we can’t begin to imagine or understand.

    In his all-too-short life, Tommy did extraordinary things for our football club. He spent 14 years as a player, making his debut against Dundee in April 1975 and bowing out in a friendly match at Celtic Park against Ajax in December 1989.

    The Celtic View interviewed him on many occasions over the years, and at one point he was asked what his greatest achievement had been as a player.

    As far as he was concerned, it was staying at the club for such a long time “because bad players don’t play for Celtic for 14 years.”

    That has always been the same at the club and it is testament to his ability that Tommy did manage to last so long. During that time he won six league championships, five Scottish Cups and one League Cup medal. It was an impressive tally for a player who made 503 appearances for his beloved green and white Hoops.

    Tommy Burns seemed fated to play for Celtic. The boy from the Calton, born almost in the shadow of Celtic Park, grew up following the club and progressed on to the hallowed turf.

    As he always said, he considered himself to be no more than a supporter who got lucky. It was always a way of reminding people, and perhaps himself, that he was one of them, and it offers a perfect illustration of his humility.

    Having left the club, he returned in 1994 as manager, and was instrumental in restoring our pride on the pitch. His team always tried to play football ‘the Celtic Way’, and everyone who watched the Hoops at that time still speak with great affection and enthusiasm about what they saw.

    While he did win the Scottish Cup in 1995 – Celtic’s first trophy in six years – a league title eluded him. It would have been a fitting reward for Tommy and his team but sadly it was not to be and he left in 1997.

    Thankfully, however, it wasn’t for long and when he returned, it was like he had come home. Our Youth Academy, which has produced a whole host of first-team players in recent seasons, is testament to his hard work in setting it up, while the Lennoxtown Training Centre is a great legacy.

    And Tommy’s contribution to the club’s success under Gordon Strachan cannot be underestimated. The league triumph at Tannadice in 2008, which made it three-in-a-row, was dedicated to Tommy by a group of players still mourning the loss of an influential figure within their ranks.

    Throughout the battle he fought with skin cancer, Tommy showed great courage and fortitude, while taking great solace from the Catholic faith which had been a central tenet of his life.

    Supporters always loved Tommy Burns because he was one of us – a Celtic fan who was lucky enough to live the dream that we’ve all harboured at one time in our lives.

    And the sea of tributes which were laid outside the front of Celtic Park after Tommy’s passing, was the most visible sign of the unique place he held in the hearts of the entire Celtic family.

    So today, May 15, is a sad time for everyone. It’s still hard to believe that Tommy’s no longer with us, and every memory will be tinged with sadness.

    But we should also remember the great things he did for our club, the goals he scored, the trophies he lifted, the players he brought to the club and the example he set of what it means to be a good Celtic man.

    We believe that Celtic is more than a football club – our roots, our character and our ethos set us apart, and Tommy Burns embodied everything that is good about Celtic.

    He was one of the greats who passed through Parkhead’s gates and he will never be forgotten. Hail, Hail, Tommy Burns.

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