‘Tommy Burns was my greatest influence,’ Simon Donnelly

SIMON DONNELLY joined Celtic from Queens Park in 1993 and enjoyed six years as a Celtic star. Although he started out as a striker, Tommy Burns saw potential in him as a right sided midfielder and that’s where he formed such a good understanding with right back Jackie McNamara.

This is Simon’s #10IAR and as usual The Celtic Star Reporter Scott Alcroft asks the questions.

You started your career at Queens Park. How did moving to Celtic come about?

My move came about after being spotted playing with QPFC u18s and Reserves, I was invited to train with Celtic for a week before going to a tournament in Geneva. I signed when I got back.

What can you remember about the day you signed?

The day I signed my dad sneaked out of school – he was a teacher. He got someone to cover for him to go to Celtic Park with me to sign. I remember it being a glorious sun shining day and after talks with Liam Brady we walked home to Burnside talking it over. My mind was made up and I signed the following day!

Who was your biggest influence at Celtic and why?

I’m lucky my education at Celtic was priceless, surrounded by players like Charlie Nicholas as a youngster to the first team with Paul McStay. I learned off all my coaches but Tommy Burns had greatest influence on me as a kid, moving me from centre forward to the right side of midfield, he felt my style would benefit from playing there, but he was a huge influence on most of the lads coming through, a class guy as well.

Who were the characters in the dressing room?

Some larger than life characters, Granty was always involved in any banter and Tosh McKinlay, the year we won the league we’d to go to fulfil a game in Portugal the day after St Johnstone, Needless to say there was a few beers drank, I’ll never forget the boys pretending to carry Tosh into bars, the bouncer would stop us only for Tosh to stand up and walk in. He’s teetotal!!

What was the best game you played in for Celtic and why?

The 1995/96 season was a joy to play in despite not winning title. We were beaten once all season but too many draws were our downfall but I still get fans talking to me about this season. It’s hard to pin one game down, my first Rangers game at Ibrox with no Celtic fans I felt I did well, and enjoy the 5-1 at Celtic Park a few years later !!

What were your top 3 goals for Celtic?

My goal at Rugby Park vs Kilmarnock, lifting it over big Marsh to finish off a flowing move. The goal against Aberdeen playing 1-2 with Henrik then prodding it into top corner in the 1998/99 season and a header at Fir park from a McNamara cross (I think it was the winner that day).


When Celtic and Motherwell dedicated this season’s League Cup Final to your friend Phil O’Donnell, how did you feel about that?

My initial thoughts were an opportunity for his youngest son to realise what his dad meant to both clubs and sets of fans, it was a special moment for the wee man!

What kind of man was Phil on and off the pitch?

Phil was one of the best people I’ve been fortunate to call a friend, an absolute gentleman, as a player brave athletic clever, most importantly though a family man who did it all for his wife and kids!

What do you think of the job that Brendan Rodgers is doing and this current Celtic side?

Brendan has brought the excitement back, it needed it. The unbeaten run and done in style, encouraging youth, Europe after Christmas so it’s great times for the Bhoys just now…HH.

Scotty Alcroft

*This interview was done around the time of the Betfred Cup Final.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who 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 editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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