Stars of football join fans to bid farewell to Burns

Famous faces from the world of football were joined by ordinary fans to say farewell to Celtic legend Tommy Burns at his funeral today.

Thousands of mourners turned out to pay their last respects to the former manager of the Glasgow club, who died at home last Thursday aged 51.

The former Scotland international, who was also a long-serving Celtic player, died after losing a battle with cancer.

Mourners began arriving two hours before the requiem mass at St Mary’s church in the Calton area of Glasgow.

Hundreds of fans were in the street outside the church from early this morning and up to 3,000 had gathered at Celtic Park where the service is being broadcast.

Stars of the football world arrived at the church throughout the morning.

Celtic boss Gordon Strachan arrived with the first team squad to loud applause from those outside the church.

Others arriving included Rangers boss Walter Smith and captain Barry Ferguson.

Former Scotland and Rangers manager Alex McLeish also attended along with SFA chief executive Gordon Smith.

There were also a host of former Celtic players, including Roy Keane, Kenny Dalglish and Pierre van Hooijdank.

Even before guests began arriving, the street outside the church turned green and white as hundreds of fans turned out to pay their respects.

Floral tributes were laid outside the entrance to the church and Celtic scarves hung from the railings.

Thomas Mitchell 50, from Uddingston, Lanarkshire, was among fans saying farewell to Burns.

He said: “This is just a very very sad event, it’s a terrible loss to Scottish football.

“But the amount of people who have turned up just shows you how appreciated he was.

“This is a wonderful send off for him and he deserves it.”

The coffin was carried into St Mary's by former Celtic teammates Danny McGrain, Peter Grant, Pat Bonnar and George McCluskey.

Rangers manager Walter Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist, who were part of the Scotland international coaching set-up with Burns, were also among the pall-bearers.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond also attended the funeral.

Other figures from the football world who arrived to pay their respects included Everton manager David Moyes, Motherwell boss Mark McGhee and former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill.

In a eulogy, former Celtic team-mate Billy Stark described Mr Burns as a ``unique and special man''.

Stark, his assistant manager at Kilmarnock and Celtic, said: “A list of Tommy’s wonderful qualities is endless – a dignified man of principle, his generosity of spirit knew no bounds. He showed great compassion for those less fortunate than himself.

“Tommy Burns treasured three things in life above all others – family, faith and football, particularly Celtic Football Club.

“You would see him on the training ground in the morning, demanding and driven. When he returned from the lunchtime visit to the chapel, he turned into a calm and serene man.”

At Celtic Park, a tearful crowd half-a-dozen deep, listened to the mass on giant speakers outside the main entrance.

Many wore the club’s strip, while others were dressed in black suits and ties as a mark of respect.

The area outside the ground was awash with the club’s green and white colours.

Thousands of scarves, strips and flags were left by fans of Celtic and other clubs, including Glasgow rivals Rangers, in tribute.

One tribute read: “A true legend, thanks for the memories.”

Another said simply: “God bless you Mr Celtic.”

One mourner, 37-year-old Paul Farrell said Burns’s values in life set him apart.

The psychiatric nurse, from Stevenson in Ayrshire, said: “I think he epitomised everything that a Celtic fan should be.

“His family was always his first priority.

“After that you have his faith, which was very important to him and I think that gave him a lot of strength especially with his illness.

“He was a great man and that’s why he had the respect of all fans.

“I think he brought a lot of people together and I think it shows today with the crowds here.”

Mr Farrell said he had followed Burns’s career since he was a teenager and today was an emotional day for him.

He said: “If you’re a Celtic fan, it’s in your heart.

“Tommy kind of understood our joy and our pain.

“It’s quite emotional for a lot of people.”

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