Tommy Burns (1956-2008)
Celtic first team coach Tommy Burns died late Wednesday night (early Thursday morning in Glasgow). He was 51 years old.
Tommy, who's current run with Celtic began in 2005, died of complications of cancer that was first diagnosed in 2006. Though it had seemed he would last, it was revealed that he still had cancer in March. Tommy had been treated in the top cancer treatment centers in Glasgow and France but died early in the morning.
Word of Tommy's death paralyzed the Celtic football community and shocked Scotland as a whole, as Tommy was not only a fantastic soccer player but also an amazing person.
Tommy was a Celt, through and through, no doubt. His 14 year career at Celtic saw him play 350 league games for the Bhoys, scoring 52 goals and earning eight caps with Scotland.
He soon returned to Celtic as manager in 1994 and won the Scottish Cup in 1995. In 1998 he left Celtic again, but after stints with Manchester United and Reading he returned to his longtime club in 2000, right before Martin O'Neill's arrival, working in Celtic's youth development.
When Gordon Strachan arrived as Celtic manager in 2005, bringing Burns onto his coaching staff was one of his first oders of business. Burns had been on the touchline since then, playing a major role in Celtic's success.
However, Tommy Burns was more than a great player and coach.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, who was very close to Tommy in the last years of his life when the two coached together, was extremely hurt by Tommy's passing and touchingly recalled how great a person Tommy was.
"Of all the signings I've made, the most important thing I did when I came to Celtic was bring Tommy into the coaching team," said an emotional Celtic manager.
"Through his intelligence, common sense and humour, he made me understand what Glasgow was all about. Without him, I would have gone off my head! Tommy kept me sane at times.
"It was just a privilege to be in his company every day. I worked with him every day, laughed and joked with him, and it's been like that for three years. That's why the loss has hit us so hard.
"I came to Celtic three years ago and it's been a fantastic journey. But the best part of it is being able to call Tommy Burns a friend for the last three years.
"No disrespect to the football, but being Tommy's mate for three years has been the best part of coming to this club.
"We're talking about legends here, but I've always said that people won't just be judged as a footballer - and there weren't many better than Tommy - but as a person. He's top of the league when it comes to being a man.
"I think there's a difference between legendary footballers, and legendary men. I know what I would like to be remembered as."
All Scots, even Rangers fans, respected Tommy, and when a manager or player like Tommy Burns crosses the great divide between the two Old Firms squads, it shows how great of a person he was. In fact, nearly everyone who has ever played or worked with Burns during his football career has called him a great friend. His presence and guidance will not only be missed in the Celtic dugout, but also throughout the hills and valleys of Scotland and beyond. RIP Tommy. You'll be missed.
Burns' death was an immense loss to the Celtic community, and fans have already paid their respects with tributes to the Celtic great in front of Celtic Park and loving words on Celtic's own Book of Tributes.