Martin O’Neill on 2003 Uefa Cup Final Celtic supporters share their Seville stories

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That extra special Celtic gentleman, Tommy Burns

My father had been to Lisbon and there was no way I was going to miss Seville even though I didn’t have a ticket, so last minute we made enquiries….

My two mates and I travelled over landing at Gibraltar and staying in Barbate which was about 200 miles from seville. We had no tickets and I read on the way over that the team were staying at the Hotel Jerez, funniky enough in Jerez so the day before the final we went up…. Butch, Joker and I.

Beautiful Jerez in sunshine and really not a Celtic top to see as we arrived in the centre….. a few Scottish accents in the cafe bars as we passed on our way to the hotel to see the set up…. just wasting a day before the final….. that was to change!

Firstly walking down the road I met Bobby Lennox walking in the sun, bunnet on his head and stopped for a photo and chat. The guys who I was with are 15 odd years older than me and had been pals with my father and of the era, Lennox was legendary.

We carried on amd found the Hotel Jerez where security was tight outside so we stood at a distance, 3 Celtic clad men at the gates. Late lunch in the cafe opposite and a beer outside under the umbrellas…

This is where things become magical for me and the best Celtic day of my life.

Butch says to me….. here’s Tommy Burns…I say “aye right” and boom…. hand on my shoulder “awright boys?”…. the great man himself! He was with his son and he sat with us, sharing large prawns and dip, we had 4 or 5 jugs of beer whilst Tommy had coke and we spoke football and his management days, Di Canio stories, his son who played for St Mungos and had 2 hours of brilliant fun that went in a beat. We were joined by Jack McGinn amd his family for a sandwich and eventually everyone was leaving.

Tommy asked if we had tickets and when we said we didn’t. He told us that he was meeting Andy Walker and Paul McStay off the flight later and he would come back to the cafe around 9.30pm to see us and if he had any tickets….. we told him that it was a great geature but he really didnt have to. But he insisted. Off he went over towards the hotel.

We were buzzing. I went to the bar to pay our suzable bill and the Spanish barman then pointed to my hair and said in broken English “the man like you, pay for the bill.”

Tommy. What a guy. A total.privilege to have spent the time with him, a true legend.

So it gets better…I then having a few beers in me and Dutch courage said to the my 2 old partners ” ok follow me!”……

I walks over toward the front steps of the Hotel Jerez and was there was a bit of commotion with papparazi and tv cameras looking no doubt for a glimpse of celeb…. like a parting of the waves I walked up to an official who asked if I was with the Celtic party and straight faced I said yes and walked straight past with Butch and Joke….. unbelievable!

Inside the cool marble reception opened up into a large open lounge and bar area which was then outside to a pool area. It was like a matchday in there.

Butch is stiffling his excitement as I say just walk to the bar so we can re-assess. I turn round and the Lisbon Lions except Lennox and Johnstone are right in front of me!!!

Butch who has a talent for talking comes into his own and asks John Fallon about coming from Fauldhouse and he then says that I have a laddie from there (pointing to me) and he knows my nana and the McGarty family. Bertie Auld asks us to sit with them….I ask to buy them all a drink as a tribute to my father to which most accept.

Next thing they are discussing Stein amd the halcylon days and Bertie shouts over to Martin O’Neill who is coming in from outside…. “Boss! I’ve a laddie to meet you!”

Over he comes and we get a picture and I am on Celtic cloud 9!

I go to the bar and an attractive lady sitting up, having seen the shenanigans with the Lions and the boss, says “Hi I’m Cat from Radio Clyde,”

She asked if I had seen Billy Connolly and i said I had just had a pint with him over the road with Tommy Burns.

I told her other cr*p and she was impressed….. buy US a round and asking if she could be introduced when he turned up…. “aye no problem doll….”

We had knocked everything out the park…. how could it get better?

I suggested that maybe now we should go as it was a matter of time before we stood out like 3 gatecrashers in a 5 star hotel on the eve of a European Final so we started to make out way to the exit only to be stopped by security as the team bus was arring back from training!

Larsson, Sutton, Hartson who was injured amd gutted not to play, photos with Lennon, Balde Maloney…just magic.

We left and took residence back in the cafe opposite where it was time to reflect on a magical day.

9.30pm. Tommy turns up all dapper and says he didn’t have tickets but was going for dinner with the board and would be back around 1am if he had any….

We thanked him for everything and for trying, for his company, for paying the bill but we had a 3.5 hour trip south to our digs and off he went into to the night.

What a day. We went back and then travelled the 5 hours back up the following day to Seville and the rest is history. We didn’t get in and watched the Final in the fans park.

I heard a great story about a ingenious fan going up to the press boss and saying he was Roger Baillie from the Sunday Post and they gave him his press envelope and showed him to his seat where he would watch the game the followng day and left him. He looked in tbe envelope and tbere a was a match ticket. Poor Baillie when he turned up!

That’s my memories from that brilliant day before the final.

Tom Dunnigan (Bathgate)


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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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