Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tommy Burns RIP

Sad news from Glasgow where Celtic first team coach and former Parkhead great Tommy Burns lost his battle with cancer at the age of 51; Burns played in the first live game of football I ever saw, a 1-0 win over Finn Harps in a pre-season friendly, when I was aged eight, and signed my match programme afterwards. A few years later I got as a Christmas present a copy of his official autobiography Tommy Twists, Tommy Turns, not by any means a classic and a bit too enthusiastically religious for my liking, but it stayed in the memory at least.

Tommy had a run managing the Bhoys in the mid-nineties but despite one cup win and getting the team to play some attractive football, he was badly hampered by the pervasive corporate incompetence of the club at the time, not to mention Rangers' then dominance. More recently he assisted Bertie Vogts and Walter Smith at the reins of the Scottish national team. Hats off too to Rangers, who cancelled their open-top bus procession through Glasgow as a mark of respect, in the spirit of Burns' own disdain for sectarianism:
"I think the saddest thing about the Old Firm rivalry is the people who have lost their lives after these games in the past, for such stupid reasons," he once said.

"This is football. I remember Jock Stein always said that: it's just a game.

"To think that people can go out with hatred in their heart and take away people's sons or brothers or fathers is just beyond belief. That's the way I think about it now: it's only a game.

"Educate the kids to integrate with one another and not pay any attention to who's a Catholic and who's a Protestant, and any of that rubbish.

"Just go out there, support your team, make good friends and get on with your lives."