Perfect Passing

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 Perfect Passing
(Tommy Burns, 1956-2008)

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 By Willy Maley

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 I saw you in your flame-haired youth
Play with fire on a field of gold
On fire like a burning bush
I watched you slowly growing old
And when orange turned ash
The fire lingered in the hold
Celticfootballclub was all one word to you
And all one world

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 You spanned the years
From Stein to Strachan
The silver and the blues
When the odds were stacking
Green years and lean years
When trophies were lacking
But you never lost the fans’ backing
They knew the real McCoy
When they saw it
You can’t kiss the badge
When your ribs grow on it

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 ‘Celtic-minded’ is all just talk
Real faith needs no reason
It’s a rock, the rock of ages
Not for one season or the week’s wages
But for the long walk
Into history’s pages
You were Celtic-bodied
The doctors who attended you
Knew had they cut into you
They would have found you
Through and through
Celtic to the core

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 Football was fair play to you
Family, faith and friendship too
No hit and hope but into feet
No long ball game but nice and neat
You introduced the Three Amigos
Big talents with matching egos
Yet no denying they buoyed us up
After a dry spell they gave us a cup
Serving up a feast of football amid a famine of trophies

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 For others it was a stepping-stone
For you this club was hearth and home
The hoops you jumped through
Between a glorious nine-in-a-row
And another that felt like nine-inch-nails
That pierced the flesh
Leave histrionics and overblown salaries to others
For you it was a game of brothers
You never dealt in sound bites
Devotion your daily bread
Brother Walfrid, not the Waldorf, was your style
The Calton not the Hilton made you smile

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 An altar boy unaltered by the times
In a country where some think it a crime
To make the sign, you bore your cross
With dignity and pride, a pride of lions
At your back, Paradise before you
You never compromised on faith
That’s why the fans adore you
You who stood for the hopes of a generation
Pulled up by the bootstraps from a life of toil
You dug deep into a stony soil, came up clutching emeralds
Grassroots to the soles of your boots
You never lost sight of those first green shoots
The spirit of an immigrant community
Triumphing over prejudice and bigotry

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 You shunned the limelight
Never garrulous nor garish
Your touchstone: the club, the fans, the parish
That’s where you met your match, your maker
Though the walk is long down the tunnel of night
To a field of green flooded with light
Your namesake Rabbie would have known
A man like you never walks alone
You walk now with your head held high
A sea of shoulders hoists you to the sky

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 The pundits prattle of change and fashion
Some things don’t change, like skill and passion
If you know the history, you know that heart
And not hard cash makes an art
Of what’s a game of two halves
You belonged not with the roundheads but the cavaliers
Not with the fat cats and fellow travellers
But the have-nots and the hoi polloi
The Jungle Bhoys and the Toi Molloi

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 Your funeral was a watershed
Held in a place where angels tread
No mere man or manager had fled
The scene, a part of history was dead
The football world mourned as one
The passing of a favoured son
You had carried others uncomplaining
Why not be carried now above the crowd
What should you care had it been raining?
Tears from heaven at last light’s waning

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 Mind and body cannot last
The spirit’s the thing
And yours was vast
Your favourite song was ‘Mack the Knife’
There’s Rosemary for remembrance
Your loving wife
The twists and turns of a wonderful life
Your sense of humour broke down defences
The way your eyes shone through your lenses

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 Surely a poor man’s pride and joy
To wear the Hoops he followed as a boy
Hailing from the East End
East of Eden
The Bhoy-next-door
To St Mary’s where the story started
The Celtic Story, your tale too
A tale of two cities, one green, one blue
The left wing was your stamping ground
An uncut emerald that Big Jock found
And signed, and saw, and said
Your sweet left foot makes the ball talk
Let it do the work, so others can walk

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 From the Lions to Lambert
You strutted your stuff
Learned to take the smooth with the rough
Celtic minted in green and white
No defender could have you shackled
It was your shadow the opposition tackled
Old School, a throwback to a bygone era
You made history feel that bit nearer

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 Perfectly weighted were your passes
Though in later years you wore trademark glasses
Eyesight aside, you had twenty-twenty vision
Pitch-perfect pure pinpoint precision
You can bury medals but memories stay
When you play football the Celtic way
You’re still a step ahead of us
A light left foot ahead of us
You’re on the road again
You’re on your way to Paradise

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 Some do not dare to give it all
Few down the years can be called pivotal
15 years, 500 games, that’s quite a feat
For country less fortunate perhaps
You had to settle for just 8 caps
A small haul for such a maestro with the ball
But like the Murphy’s you were never bitter
Just kept doing what you did best
Moving the ball around like a game of chess
Unselfish, unassuming, sprightly
You let others shine while you glowed quietly

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 Jock said your left foot made the ball talk
How we loved to listen to it
You were ginger with fizz and bottle
Like those other burns that run through it
This land, your land, where we make our stand
You bubbled under, then burst through
Sparkling clear as a summer’s day
Against Sporting Lisbon you ran the show
You were in your prime, and let us know

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 You cried when you pulled on the jersey for the last time
Threw your boots into The Jungle
Where few could fill them
You made them tingle
You had to thrill them
You were a fan who became a player
Knew what it meant to live on a wing and a prayer
Jerseys lined the street for your last farewell
Soaked with tears from the same deep well

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 I read the news today, oh Bhoy
60,000 souls enshrined in Paradise
Awaiting word of just one man
A man who is more in their eyes
You were no Pele, no Maradona
No precious puffed-up Prima Donna
You even wrote your epitaph:
“Andy Goram broke my heart”
But it’s you who has the last laugh
Long after we’ve forgotten him
Scored on the heart of every Tim
The peerless name of TOMMY BURNS

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 You were a linchpin more than a legend
Better players passed through Parkhead’s gates
And so there will be those who
Hedging their bets hesitate
To place you with the Celtic greats
But you captured hearts by giving all you had
Through the good times and the bad
So let these words be softly spoken
Wherever green and white are worn
Up there where the free bird’s sweetly soaring
There’s Tommy Burns

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 Tommy, Tommy Burns, he twists, he turns
Tommy, Tommy Burns, none could surpass him
Tommy, Tommy Burns, see how he runs
Where the free bird flies, that’s where you’ll find him



I wrote this poem in the wake of the death of Celtic legend Tommy Burns, who hailed from the same part of Glasgow’s East End as my father. I had watched Tommy as a player and manager and the twists and turns of his life encompassed and exemplified the best traditions of the club.

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/perfect-passing/