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Bayern MunichBayern Munich
VfL WolfsburgVfL Wolfsburg
6:30 PM GMT
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 15, 2008

Celtic legend Tommy Burns dies

Celtic legends and former colleagues led the tributes to Tommy Burns after the club's first-team coach lost his battle with cancer.

Burns, who was 51, was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006. Although he received treatment, the disease returned in March this year.

The Scot spent 15 years as a player at Parkhead and also managed the club for three seasons.

Former Celtic team-mate Davie Provan said Burns 'embodied everything good about the club', and Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell added: 'I don't think you will find anyone on this earth who will say a bad word about him.'

Burns joined Celtic as a teenager in 1973 and went on to play 352 league games for the club, scoring 52 goals, and winning eight Scotland caps.

In 1989, he moved to Kilmarnock and was given his first job in management there three years later.

He left to take the Celtic reins in 1994 and later bossed Reading before becoming Scotland number two in 2002 under Berti Vogts and later Walter Smith.

He returned to Celtic as first-team coach shortly before Martin O'Neill's arrival, and it was a position he retained when Gordon Strachan became manager.

Provan told Sky Sports News: 'I will remember him as a very good footballer but more than that, a great human being. He was decent and honest.

'He embodied everything good about the club.'

Burns is survived by his wife of 28 years, Rosemary, and four children.

Another former Celtic team-mate, Frank McGarvey, told said: 'I'm shattered and I think everyone is shattered. My thoughts go out to his wife Rosemary and the family. It's a very sad day for everyone.

'He was one of Celtic's greatest servants. He was one of the good guys, a winner, with a great sense of humour and he will be badly missed by everyone. A good friend has been taken away.'

Gemmell, one of the heroes of Celtic's 1967 European Cup-winning team, did not play with Burns but got to know him well.

Gemmell said: 'He was a tremendous player and a great manager. And a great person. I don't think you will find anyone on this earth who will say a bad word about him.'

Former Celtic captain Paul Lambert also knew Burns well.

Lambert told BBC Radio Scotland: 'It's a great loss, no doubt about it. He was just a terrific guy to have known. His enthusiasm for the game was terrific. He was a very funny man.

'It was a privilege knowing him.'

Alan McInally, who played alongside Burns at Celtic and under him at Kilmarnock, said: 'I have memories of Tommy Burns being just the most happy, family-loving individual I think I've ever met in my life.'

Celtic chairman John Reid said: 'The passing of Tommy Burns is devastating news and my sincere and heartfelt sympathies go to Rosemary and Tommy's family.

'Tommy is someone who was loved by so many of us. He was a man of true integrity and dignity. As a Celtic player, manager and coach, Tommy served Celtic with distinction and true professionalism.

'He was a true gentleman and someone who had the ability to connect and engage with anyone he met.

'As Celtic supporters we recognised Tommy as one of our own and Tommy in turn was always delighted to spend time in the company of fellow fans. It was a privilege to know Tommy Burns. He was a man who gave so much to the club he loved over so many years.

'Tommy's passing will be mourned by the entire Celtic family. He will be hugely missed by us all, but he is someone we will never ever forget.'

Burns was a much-loved figure among the Celtic supporters and they paid tribute to him.

Peter Rafferty, of the Association of Celtic Supporters' Clubs, said: 'Celtic was a big part of his life but the biggest part of his life was his family. He became a grandfather a few weeks ago and that is the biggest tragedy.

'Legend is a word that is used quite a lot these days but he was. He was a great player with Celtic first and foremost.'

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan paid an emotional tribute.

'We'll all know how lucky we are that Tommy was part of our life,' said Strachan. 'Every time he walked into a room you felt better when Tommy was about.

'We've missed him about the place, It's not the same when he's not there. The most important thing I did when I came here [in 2005] was make Tommy assistant manager.

'Through his intelligence, common sense and humour, he made me understand what Glasgow was all about. He kept me sane at times.

'It was just a privilege to be in his company every day.'

Celtic captain Stephen McManus said: 'It's been a pleasure to have known him for eight years. You can't help but love him to bits. He's going to be sadly missed.'

Chief executive Peter Lawwell added: 'Tommy Burns will live forever in the club. He's part of the history.

'We've had many legends at this football club but truly he'll take his position in there.

'His energy, his drive, and his passion for this club was remarkable.'

Following the news of Burns' death, Rangers abandoned plans for a bus tour through Glasgow which was set to follow their appearance in last night's UEFA Cup final.

In a statement, Rangers said: 'In light of the news of the death of Tommy Burns this morning, Rangers Football Club has decided it would be wholly inappropriate to take part in a public procession through Glasgow today.

'The club would like to extend its sincere condolences to the family of Tommy Burns at this very sad time.'

Britain's sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe also paid tribute.

'I'm very sad to hear of Tommy Burns' death,' said Sutcliffe. 'Tommy was a fantastic player who rightly became a Celtic legend. His death is a great loss for football. My thoughts go out to his family at this time.'

The SFA, who Burns served as a national team coach under Scotland managers Berti Vogts and Walter Smith, described him as a 'magnificent ambassador' to the game.

'Everyone at the Scottish FA would like to pass on their condolences to the family of Tommy Burns at this very sad time,' a statement read.

'Tommy's passing is a great loss and he will be sadly missed by us all. He was a true gentleman and a magnificent ambassador for Scottish football.'

Motherwell also expressed their 'deep sadness'. Burns signed Phil O'Donnell from Motherwell in 1994 and spoke of his grief when the Fir Park captain died from heart failure in December.

A club statement read: 'Motherwell FC have been all too familiar with grief in recent times and received help from all quarters, including immeasurable support from Celtic and indeed, Tommy Burns himself.'