Thomas “Tommy” Burns (16 December 1956 – 15 May 2008) was a Scottish professional football player and manager. He was also a Scotland international, winning eight caps between 1981 and 1988, while a Celtic player. He died of skin cancer on 15 May 2008, aged 51.
In 1989, Burns moved to Kilmarnock, where he became player-manager in 1992, winning the club promotion to the Scottish Premier Division in season 1992–93.
On 25 March 1998, he was appointed manager of Reading, who were struggling in Division One in what was their final season at Elm Park before the relocation to Madejski Stadium. He had been approached about the Reading manager’s job the previous summer, but rejected it in favour of a coaching role under his former Celtic colleague Dalglish.
On 29 March 2006, Celtic confirmed Burns had begun treatment for melanoma skin cancer.On 10 March 2008, Celtic announced that Burns was facing another skin cancer scare, and would be undergoing further treatment for the disease. On 15 May 2008, Burns died at home.
His funeral mass was celebrated at St Mary’s, Abercromby Street (the church in whose hall was held the inaugural meeting of what was to become Celtic FC) in his native Calton on 20 May 2008 followed by interment at Linn Cemetery, Castlemilk.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was among those who paid tribute to Burns. A visibly emotional Strachan said “being Tommy’s mate was the best part of joining Celtic” and that “There weren’t many better than him as a footballer. But, as a person, he was top of the league when it comes to being a man.” Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said “If you define a Celtic man, it would certainly be Tommy Burns. He was a wonderful human being.”Club captain Stephen McManus said “He was courageous and he was probably as brave a man as you’ll ever meet.”Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist, who had worked with Burns in his role for the Scotland national team, said “I have met a lot of good people through football but Tam was the very best.” On 16 May, Rangers manager Walter Smith and McCoist arrived at Celtic Park to lay a wreath in memory of Burns, and then spent half an hour in the stadium, speaking with Celtic officials, then another half-hour outside speaking to fans. Smith and McCoist also served as pallbearers at Burns’ funeral.