- In the following 1989/90 season, Kilmarnock made a shock announcement that they had signed Burns for £50,000 on December 16th (his 33rd birthday) , despite then manager Jim Fleeting having little finances at his disposal as Kilmarnock languishing in the Scottish 2nd division. Burns would have to wait until the 23rd of that month to make his debut, with Kilmarnock managing a 3-0 victory over Arbroath.
Tommy would go on to be an instrumental part of Kilmarnock's promotion push, with his still obvious talents and vast experience absolutely vital to the team. Kilmarnock finally won promotion at the end of the season, albeit in 2nd place behind Brechin City, and would also go on to win the Ayrshire FA Challenge Cup.
Season 1990/91 would see Kilmarnock finish 5th. 1991/92 season was one that Kilmarnock hoped that they could finally gain promotion back to Scottish football's top division, but bad form and the final nail in the coffin for manager Jim Fleeting was a 3-1 home defeat to Partick Thistle - this match would see the Killie board finally lose patience with Fleeting, and he would soon see his reign as manager come to an end.
Tommy would be handed his first chance at management, being asked to take over as caretaker manager. Tommy managed Kilmarnock to go on an incredible run, as they won his first 5 games in charge without conceeding a goal, his best victory in this run being a 4-0 drubbing of Ayr in the Ayrshire Challenge Cup final.
The Kilmarnock fans were joyous with the form their team where showing under Burns - in particular the free-flowing attacking football that they were being treated to. To no surprise they were desperate for Burns toget the job ful-time, and to no one's surprise, Tommy was appointed full-time manager after the Cup final v Ayr.
Burns and his assistant (former Hoops team mate Billy Stark) would lead Kilmarnock on an extraordinary surge through the 1992/93 season that would see him guide Kilmarnock back to top flight football as runners up to Raith Rovers, as well as winning yet another Ayrshire Challenge Cup.
In Kilmarnock's first appearance in the top flight in just over 10 years, Burns had managed to secure their premier league status in a season where both manager and team earned praise for their dominating football. Kilmarnock would also defend their position as Ayrshire Challenge Cup champions as they Ayrshire men ended the 1993/94 season on a tremendous high, despite the agony of having lost out on a place in the Scottish Cup final having lost 2-1 to Rangers in a two legged match (one that was engrossed in a *cough* no surprise contentious refereeing decision that would see Rangers run out as winners in the return leg).
Before the start of the 1994/95 season, there were rumours at Celtic that new Chairman Fergus McCann - the tempestuous wee Scots/Canadian millionaire who had saved the club from the brink, was losing patience with then manager Lou Macari. Macari was subsequently sacked as manager of Celtic, and thus began a bitter process as McCann was alleged to have "tapped up" Burns as Celtic manager. McCann - who was no stranger to battles with those in charge of Scottish football - was prepared to accept any charges flung his and Celtic's way simply to get what he wanted, which usually happened! On a supposed personal recommendation from none other than Alex Ferguson that Burns should be the next Celtic manager, McCann headhunted Burns to take over. Despite still being under contract at Kilmarnock and having earned the hearts of their fans, Burns could not say no to returning to his spiritual home, and agreed to become Celtic manager in July 1994 in a move that would see
Never the less, Tommy had returned home. The Celtic fans were in joyous celebration at seeing one of their own back at the helm. Tommy had a job on his hands with Celtic in one of their most hideous barron periods with the blue half of Glasgow still dominating Scottish fitba (now we know that Cheats F.C were doing so with money that didn't belong to them!).
McCann and Burns' working relationship never got off to the best of starts, as unsurprisingly the two were at loggerheads over the signing policy. Burns lost out on several high priority targets due to McCann's policies put in place to deliver stabilty to the club. Still though, Burns was able to make signings for that season - most high profile being Phil O'Donnell from Motherwell, and the giant Dutchman Pierre van Hooijdonk from NAC Breda.
In his first season - without doubt a transitional one for Celtic - the league was still well outwith our reach as Rangers' league dominance maintained without any difficulties. Celtic though were clicking in the cup competitions. Burns had managed to lead Celtic to the League Cup final against Raith Rovers at Ibrox. Celtic were expected to romp to victory, but with Celtic having got into a 2-1 lead in the 84th minute by way of a Charlie Nicholas goal, Gordon Dalziel popped up 2 mins later with an equalizer. No goals in extra time sw the match go to penalties. Fast forward to the decisive kick, Paul McStay would go on to miss the important kick, and Jimmy Nichol's Raith team would go on to lift the cup. Burns and McStay in particular - two men who had given their all for Celtic, were distraught. The "Barren Years" would continue...
Tommy would however manage to galvanize the team and keep the spirits high. This culminated in Celtic managing to reach the Scottish Cup final in May 1994, with their opponents , Airdieonians. Celtic's expansive, attacking football was starting to take shape in the later parts of that season, but coming up against the particularly nasty Airdrie team, Celtic knew it would be a hard task to carry on this style into the final.
To no surprise, the task of overcoming a dogged Airdrie was proving difficult for Celtic in the match. But, in the 9th minute, Tosh McKinley - as he had done quite often that season - broke down the left hand touchline and delivered in a sensational cross into the box, Celtic's giant van Hooijdonk rising highest to the ball and powered in an incredible header past John Martin in the Airdrie goal. Celtic were 1-0 up! the remainder of the match saw Celtic toil to break down the opposition, whilst also counting their luck at times in their own defensive areas. Still though, they stuck to their task. The referee had blown the final whistle, and Celtic had done it! They had ended the "Barren Years"! No one could have been happier than Burns and McStay. Celtic had won their first piece of silverware in 6 years, it was the first trophy under the new regime. It was the first trophy for Burns, and - surprisingly - it was the first trophy Paul McStay had won captaining Celtic.
Celtic had won their first trophy under Burns, and were expected to try and take the league from Rangers' grip in the 1995/96 season as the Ghouls of Govan entered into the season chasing their 8th league title. This was the season that McCann finally flexed some financial muscle on the park, as Burns led the way by getting rid of the "old guard" - moving on players such as Charlie Nicholas and Wille Falconer et al, and bringing in highly rated German Andreas Thom from Bayern Leverkusen, Dundee's big Dane Morten Weighorst, exciting young Jackie McNamara, rough and ready John Hughes and laterly, Portuguese sensation Jorge Cadete (although the powers that be did everything in their powers to stifle Cadete's arrival - aye, you Farry! ). Along at Govan however, Rangers continued to spend spend spend, with their big money name that season being none other than Paul Gascoigne. This was shaping up for a battle!
Celtic started off the season in emphatic fashion, romping into 1st place before the first Old Firm encounter of the season. Celtic were expected to take something from the game, but like many encounters in recent years, Rangers managed to secure the game 2-1. Too many draws in between the next OF encounter in November say Celtic trail Rangers by 4 points as the two foes met at Ibox. A thrilling 3-3 game saw Celtic lead twice with goals from Thom and John Collins, Laudrup and McCoist equalizing twice. Tosh McKinley scored an OG before big Pierre rescued a point. During the game, hun keeper Goram produced an utterly stunning save, one of many he would produce against Tommy Burns' side throughout his tenure - a constant thorn in his side.
Celtic's attacking force that season was one to behold. The football on show was tremendous, nothing seen by the Celtic support since the days of Jock Stein's heroic Lisbon Lions, although shocking defensive performances at the back would see Celtic regularly go from heroes to zeros as the draws continued to rack up, an OF game at Celtic Park being one of them.
March that year saw Celtic complete the free signing of Jorge Cadete from Sporting Lisbon. Burns hoped that his arrival would see Celtic's title ambitions spark again and score the goals to lead them to the top of the table, but as said previously the powers that be showed their underhanded tactics as then SFA Chief Executive Jim Farry withheld Cadete's registration deliberately to not allow him to play in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers (which the Govanites won), as well as missing a further 5 games. Fergus McCann would go after Farry and the SFA in arbitration over a period of 3 years which Farry would eventually lose his job. As if he acted alone, eh?
Despite this disgusting debacle, when Cadete finally made his debut it was an arrival of a new hero! Scoring 5 goals in the 6 games he was allowed to play in the remaining fixtures, he linked up to perfection with big Pierre (with 26 goals to his name) and Celtic made one last push to try and catch up with the then league leaders, Rangers.
Sadly though, it was not to be. The Ibroxians had won the league - their 8th in a row. Celtic had finished the season trophyless. Despite Celtic's form in the attacking areas, it was at the back that had cost them, beaten once in the league that season, it was the eleven draws that saw Burns' "almost men" undone. It was for this season alone many dubbed Burns the "best Celtic manager never to win the league". Burns' 2nd season as Celtic manager had ended in glorious failure.
His 3rd season in early 1996/97 saw the arrival of maverick Italian, Paolo di Canio from AC Milan. Fellow Italian Enrico Annoni would shortly arrive. Celtic would spend a sizable amount to bring in highly rated English defender Alan Stubbs, as well as Geordie striker Tommy Johnson from Aston Villa.
Despite starting brightly, and with the new exciting trio of Cadete/van Hooijdonk and Di Canio (followed by Andy Thom) dazzling the Celtic fans with their play and goals, the season begun to fade away. Celtic had lost their first two OF encounters, as well as losing in the league cup to Motherwell in between. More draws, losing the further two OF games, and losing a Scottish Cup semi-final replay to Falkirk, this season was ending in disaster for Celtic and Burns. To top things off, it was also ending in controversy OFF the park, as Celtic's stunning trio of Cadete/van Hooijdonk/Di Canio (dubbed the "Three Amigos") had become embroiled in a bitter war of words with "frugal" Celtic CEO Fergus McCann over money. This would begin the demise, with Van Hooijdonk later being sold to Nottm Forest, Di Canio sold in a swap deal to Sheffield Wednesday for Regi Blinker, and Cadete (who had finished the season as league top scorer with 28 goals).
Despite Tommy's side playing some incredible football and amasing a good number of points, it still wasn't enough to stop Rangers claiming their 9th league title in a row. McCann wasn't happy with the progress of the club under Burns, and effectively asked him to step down as Celtic manager and into a new role in charge of youth development at the club. Burns declined the "demotion", and resigned as Celtic manager in May 1997.
Ever the fiery redhead, Burns was furious at his "treatment" by McCann, and soon after leaving his role as manager of Celtic went public in a full spread interview lambasting McCann and the board of Celtic. An ill-judged move and one that should have been thought through more by Burns, as it came across as nothing more than bitter.
In hindsight as a Celtic supporter, it was the right move by McCann, as we all know how the next Celtic manager - a wee Dutchman by the name of Wim Jansen - got on the following season....
After Celtic, Tommy moved to Newcastle to coach under Kenny Dalglish. A move that didn't last long.
Tommy then spent some time as manager of Reading (in which times he would appoint a young coach by the name of Brendan Rodgers into his staff), although this would be another unsuccessful time in Tommy's career.
After Reading, and after some time out of football, Burns was to step up to international level as he was appointed Assistant Manager to the first foreign coach of the Scottish national side, German Berti Vogts. Despite Vogts later leaving the post after play-off failure against Holland in 2004, (Burns would spend his one and only game as Scotland manager on a caretaker basis, a 4-1 friendly defeat to Sweden) he remained Assistant manager as Walter Smith took over the hotseat, with fellow former Ranger Ally McCoist coming in as coach - this would be the start of a personal friendship that would grow between the once set of sworn on-the-pitch enemies.
Smith/Burns/McCoist would enjoy some terrific performances managing Scotland, none moreso than beating France 1-0, but later Smith and McCoist would jump ship to once again take over at Rangers. . Burns would make his case to become new Scotland manager on a full-time basis, but Tommy was to be criminally overlooked once again as Alex McLeish took over the reigns.
Between the time of Smith and McLeish being appointed, Burns had already made a return to his beloved Celtic on a part-time basis, with still simultaneously working as Scotland AM. Tommy had returned under Gordon Strachan as his coach, alongside brutish Englishman Garry Pendrey. It was here that Tommy would - as he always did wherever he went - become great friends with his new "boss" Strachan. Incredible lows then incredible highs would be oversaw by the new management team, and stability was finally coming back to Celtic after a transitional period as current CEO Peter Lawwell was tasked with the remit of cost-cutting the Martin O'Neill era.
In March 2006, Celtic FC confirmed that their coach Tommy Burns had been receiving treatment for a Melanoma cancerous cell on his skin, and that they expected him to recover well.
in 2007, Burns announced that he was resigning from his dual role as Scotland assistant in order to focus primarily on his role as Celtic 1st team coach.
On the 10th March 2008, Celtic FC once again regrettably was again receiving treatment for skin cancer.
With utter sadness, Celtic FC had to make the announcement that 15th May 2008, Tommy had passed away at home surrounded by wife Rosemary and family.
Not only was his immediate family in mourning, but the Celtic family (and further) were inconsolable. We had lost on of our favourite sons. Tributes poured in from ex-players, ex-managers, old foes, the public....everywhere. In Tommy's death, it was spoken about how brightly he shone in life, and how many people he touched simply his his infectious character, his humour, his faith, and in some cases.......his feet (depending on which players he decided to try and tackle off the park!).
Celtic would go on to win the league title in May of that year, and did so in the memory of Tommy
Never a man was there so synonamous with Celtic. Having grew up in the shadows of Celtic Park in the Calton (the home of Celtic's origins), his faith, his community spirit, and......most of all, his love and unbridled passion for the Green and White Hoops.
The anniversary of his death gets further away with each year, but the legacy that "Tam" left us with is as significant as can be - from his implimentation of the "Ajax" model into our youth systems, to the memory he left (even though unsuccesful, still one of our favourite times as Celtic supporters watch TB's free-flowing Celts) to the stupendous training complex of Lennonxtown that Tommy was so influential in securing.
Not a day goes by that you are not missed TB, * Bless the "Supporter who got lucky"