Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville hero Tommy Breslin died in Spain days after a family wedding

Tributes paid: Tommy Breslin
Tributes paid: Tommy Breslin
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The funeral of former Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin is not expected to take place until late next week.

The 58-year-old passed away in Spain, where he had been on holiday after attending a family wedding.

He is believed to have suffered a heart attack after returning from a walk with his partner of 18 years, Valerie.

Mr Breslin, who also played for the Reds, led Ireland's oldest club to one of the most successful periods in its history, winning consecutive league titles in 2013 and 2014 before he resigned in September 2015.

Cliftonville patron Jim Boyce, a former Fifa vice-president, was club chairman during Mr Breslin's playing days at the north Belfast side.

He later watched his achievements with admiration after taking on his role with world football's governing body.

"I'm still devastated and in total shock," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"To me, he was an absolute gentleman, so well-liked by the football community and the wider afield, irrespective of class or creed.

"Any time I met him, he had a smile on his face, and that was the case the last time I met up with him when he managed a team at former club captain Ryan Catney's testimonial match back in May. He gave the club, and me personally, so many happy memories.

"Tommy will be missed by his many, many friends in football and I send my deepest sympathies to Valerie and the Breslin family circle."

Paying tribute, Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor said he "changed people's lives during his iconic managerial reign at the club".

"Tommy was a totally unique human being," he said. "With his infectious smile and warm personality, he could change the atmosphere in a room by merely entering it. I genuinely have never heard a bad word said about him and I have yet to meet a more humble person.

"To his partner Valerie, his beloved sisters and the entire Breslin family circle, I offer my own and Cliftonville Football Club's condolences and deep heartfelt sorrow at this very painful time.

"Our club has lost one of its greatest sons - if not the greatest. He changed people's lives, he made men believe and he delivered people's dreams."

The Reds kick off their league campaign tomorrow at Coleraine and their first home match will be on Tuesday night against Glenavon, when they are expected to pay an emotional tribute to their former manager.

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