Thursday, May 15. 2008
I really wanted to write about last night's events in Manchester and I was very harsh at work today in my assesment of the behaviour of a minority of Rangers fans. As well as my genuinely negative feelings, the opportunity to wind people up was irresistible.
But the truth is that I can't bring myself to be that bothered about Rangers losing to a better side or my natural and long-held passions. The day turned when a guy at work told me that Tommy Burns was dead. Even though I should have read between the lines of the respectful press release of some weeks ago, I really wasn't expecting it and whilst the modern taste for collective grief for people we don't really know is usually an annoyance, I've felt down about it all day (although I'm sure it's nothing compared to those that were close to him).
What I can say is that I grew up watching Tommy Burns play and that meant a lot to a teenage boy. Whilst the reports have focussed on the centenary year, my memories are more from the early 80's when we were more of a force (along with Aberdeen and Dundee United). People are right to talk about attractive football and there was always something almost too silky about Tommy for the Scottish game. It was like he was playing his own game at times - never to be the biggest of stars, with less than 10 international caps, but determined to do things his way. He was an iconic figure for my generation of Celtic supporter.
Over the years, I've occasionally mentioned Tommy's autobiography 'Twists and Turns' to people because I'd heard some really good reviews of it as being an uncommonly frank example but have never been able to find it. It seems to me that now would be a perfect time for a new print-run.
Over time the older man emerged and whilst people forget how often he was mocked for his almost-too-good-to-be-true faith and decency, he eventually convinced people as today's heart-felt tributes show. In the end, when someone's so bloody nice, it wins through eventually.
It's difficult to know what to say. He meant a lot to me as a footballer and he gave me one of the best seasons of my life as a manager - Di Canio, Van Hooijdonk, Cadete (and that's to name just three). We might not have won the league, but I could have watched that team for the rest of my life! Another key member of that squad was Phil O'Donnell.
RIP, Tommy. Truly a Celtic man, truly a good man.
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