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TOMMY BURNS TRIBUTE: ‘CELTIC WAS IN HIS DNA,’ PAT BONNER

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CELTIC goalkeeping great Pat Bonner reckons Tommy Burns was destined to manage the team for a second time.

The Hoops legend took charge of the Parkhead side between 1994 and 1997, winning the Scottish Cup in 1995.

Bonner, speaking 10 years after the death of Burns, at the age of 51, from melanoma, insisted he would have returned a superior manager.

The ex-Republic of Ireland No.1 said: “Celtic was in his DNA. I’ve no doubts, if he’d lived on, he would have had another chance to be manager again.

“Because he was learning – he almost went back to the academy to learn a little bit more of his trade, but he had all that experience then.

“When he got the job initially, maybe it was a little bit too early for him, but saying that nobody – not the likes of Tommy Burns, anyway – could knock it back at that point in time.

“It’s just a pity that he was up against a fantastic Rangers team at that time, nearly won the league, won the Cup, lost out the following year and then he was gone and he should have stayed on – there’s no question in my mind.”

Burns replaced Lou Macari at the beginning of the 1994-95 campaign, but in three seasons was unable to wrestle the title away from Walter Smith’s Ibrox side.

Bonner, who played under Burns at the beginning of his reign, said: “He was an exceptional manager of people. That period when he had Pierre van Hooijdonk, Jorge Cadete, Paulo di Canio, Andy Thom – he went that way of bringing in quality players.

“Of course at times,  there were six players on the pitch left to defend and four walking back, but that got the fans excited. They loved that style of play. They loved it before Tommy came in and he knew what would excite the fans.

“He was also interested in the young players. He always told them: ‘You’ll get one chance, you’ve got to be ready to take it’.

“The young boys loved him, even though he was hard on them. He was demanding because he knew the fans would be demanding.”

Bonner reflected on Burns’ legacy at the club, where he also won six league titles and four Scottish Cups as a player, and believes he is up there with the best who have played at the club.

He added: “His best achievement is that he’s remembered by the fans as someone who made a contribution to the club.

“He’s up there with Billy McNeil and Jimmy Johnstone, all the Lisbon Lions. If you were to pick out one or two players following the Lisbon Lions, Tommy would be up there with them.”

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