Family, Faith, and Football
JimmyNotPaul inspired me to pen this when he did a leader on Paul Mc Stay (The Maestro) As Tommy Burns and Paul were two of my greatest ever Celtic players.
There are many articles written about Tommy Burns, one of our own, and most of them are too fine for me to try and emulate, so I did not want to do another on his playing history at Celtic. He was a fans man, a Supporter who got lucky, and he always remembered the fans. I think he paid the Ultimate accolade to us when he said.
“That’s what’s so special about them right there, Just right up there; that’s what’s so special about them. They’re there and they’re always there, and god bless every single one of them.”
Possibly one of the greatest tributes to Tommy the player, came from the legendary Johan Cruyff, who after an Ajax European Cup game said “I liked the red headed player in the Celtic team.”
A gifted midfielder with a sweet left foot, even though Jock Stein sometimes used him at left back, he was known as that wee guy with a mop of red hair, and a fiery temper to match, at least up until he married and seemed to mature as a person both on and off the field. Tommy made 467 Appearances for Celtic, then would go on to play for and then manage Kilmarnock, Celtic, Reading an assistant with Scotland, both with Bertie Vogts then Walter Smith and then Celtic with Gordon Strachan.
Tommy is probably remembered as an incredible person first of all and a Celtic player secondly. He lived his dream by going from a Celtic fan, to playing for his team, and finally becoming the Celtic manager. I think one of his own sentences sums up what the club meant to him. Speaking of his last game for Celtic, he recalled. “I ran about the pitch for 20 minutes with tears running down my cheeks because I knew I would never wear a Celtic jersey again.”
My own personal knowledge of Tommy is, he would leave tickets at parkhead for my Granda, and he called him His Da, even though they were not in any way related at all, my Granda idolised Tommy, and the auld yin was a really hard one to please, he was really old school, best described as a permanently grumpy bitter auld bugger, who thought children should be seen and not heard. It seemed to me back then, that there were very few people that he liked. He hated Dalglish as I recall, and would refer to him as “That midden”, (I’m not sure if this was a reference to Dalglish wanting away in 1977 or not, I never dared question his reason, as the auld bugger was always too angry to ask questions to.) but he loved Tommy. The last time i saw Tommy was at my Grandas funeral in St Gregory’s chapel in Maryhill.
Tommy burns, was Celtic through and through, but i’d like to focus more on Tommy as a person and his great spirit, and the human and humorous side of him. I’m sure there are many stories and some will have their favourite.
A family asked Tommy to visit their elderly father (who was unknown to Tommy) in Glasgow’s Western Infirmary where he was trying to come to the end of his life, as a result of cancer, with as much dignity as possible, the man his eyesight poor, his speech slow and his reactions dull, from having brain tumours. Tommy said “When I sat at his bedside and told him who I was, there came an instant flicker of recognition and an anxiety to say something back to me.” Moments like that and my implicit belief in God gave me a sense of perspective and kept the daily demands of football at a tolerable level.
On the lighter side of Tommy Burns, Hugh Keevins said, When I questioned the wisdom to Tommy at a night out, of leaving his brand new car unattended in the Gallowgate, this being a spot in Glasgow where the Marine Corps might have felt a sense of clear and present danger, Tommy’s reply to me was.. “I’m Tommy Burns. I have Diplomatic immunity.”
Si Ferry tells the story of how he and Paul McGowan were enrolled on a sports coaching college course every Wednesday by Celtic, but they never ever went and they thought their non-attendance wouldn’t be noticed. Inevitably things caught up with the pair of them, and were sent for by a furious Tommy Burns and John Cushley, he recalls Cushley said during the meeting “If there’s any two that need to go to college it’s you two clowns, because when you two don’t make it in football, both of you will be working in McDonalds next year.”
Si admits to saying to Paul McGowan after the meeting “We’re sacked mate, Tommy was raging and I’ve never seen him like that”.
Later that night Si Ferry says he’s back home in his digs when the phone goes. It’s Tommy Burns.
Si tells his flatmate “‘This is it, I’m done mate that’s me, I’m getting released here!!”
Ferry manages to summon up the courage to answer the phone and is met by the voice of Tommy Burns on the other end:
Tommy says “Can I get a big Mac and chips please !!”
One of the YTS players at Kilmarnock Alan Kerr recalls how, When Tommy was manager at Kilmarnock he summoned a lot of YTS boys in to his office regarding a night out, that he knew they should not have been on.
David Bagan, Mark Roberts, Colin Meldrum and a few others were summoned, and Tommy asked them if they were out on a night out, with their heads down they admitted that they were indeed on a night out, Tommy then asked if they had been drinking, sheepishly they also admitted to drinking, and were standing there in fear, about what Tommy would do, he then asked with an angry expression, “who aw got a burd?”
I’ll ask again said Tommy “who all got a burd and I want an answer?”
Six of us replied “Melly gaffer”, to which Tommy turned to Melly, who had now turned as white as a sheet, and said “did you walk her home?”
“Yes gaffer” was Mellys reply.”
“Did ye get her number Melly?”
“Did ye winch her?”
“Mellly did ye winch her?”
“No honest gaffer I didn’t !!”
“Well you are fined.”
“I canny believe you got her number, walked her home and didn’t winch her!”
Then this big smile came across Tommy’s face which to our relief, we all burst out laughing!
TB did lots of charity work, and helping people with their faith, and also helped them through illness, even when he probably should have been more worried about his own health, all round he was just a fantastic person, and the world is a sadder place without Tommy Burns, and it is much poorer in his absence. I think it’s good to remember his caring and funny side, as well as his love for Celtic and it’s supporters.
The above guest article is by ASWGL. Should you take the notion to pen one the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.