Tommy Burns

Ten years on from his death from cancer at just 51 years old, Tommy Burns’ daughters and sons look back on the life and career of their beloved father, a much-revered player and manager of both Celtic and Kilmarnock.

Broadcast on BBC ALBA in 2018. Winner of the Royal Television Society Scotland Award for best sport film.

Born in the working class Calton area of Glasgow, Tommy was a humble man of humble beginnings who lived his dream to play for Celtic, becoming a fans’ favourite both on and off the pitch. A talented footballer, he excelled under the legendary Jock Stein and then Billy McNeill.

Tommy then played and managed at Kilmarnock FC, leading the club to promotion and becoming a club hero in the process. This hugely successful spell ended when he was lured back to Celtic, becoming the manager of the club whilst still in his thirties. Whilst at the helm Tommy Burns secured the signings of the so-called ‘three amigos’ of Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Paolo Di Canio and Jorge Cadete bringing a new excitement to Celtic’s play. Eventually sacked by the then owner Fergus McCann, Tommy joined Newcastle United as assistant to his old teammate, Kenny Dalglish. Tommy followed Dalglish when he himself returned to Celtic and after Dalglish’s departure he continued in charge of youth development under Martin O’Neill before becoming first team coach under Gordon Strachan.

He was also assistant Scotland manager to both Bertie Vogts and Walter Smith. He was still in his role as first team coach with Celtic when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2008. He was 51 years old.

Whilst the Tommy Burns film is the story of a talented footballer and a much-loved manager who realised his dreams with some aplomb it’s very much more than that. It’s a story of faith and compassion, a whispered glimpse into life outside of football, focusing on Tommy’s relationships with family and friends, carving an emotional insight into a husband, father, grandfather and friend. The love people have for Tommy is at the heart of this film and his uplifting yet tragic story is centrally told via the testimony of his four children Emma, Jenna, Michael and Jonathan alongside former players and friends.


Writer / Producer / Director: Margot McCuaig

Filmed:  Gavin Hopkins

Editor: Kenny Park

Narrator: Alex O’Henley