Belfast Telegraph

‘Tommy was a true legend’... tributes are paid to former Cliftonville manager after his sudden death in Spain

Tommy Breslin with the Gibson Cup
Tommy Breslin with the Gibson Cup
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Heartbroken Cliftonville FC fans have paid warm tributes to Tommy Breslin, after the sudden death of the north Belfast club's former manager.

Breslin - the first manager at Solitude to win back-to-back league titles - enjoyed unparalleled success for the club, where he had also played midfield.

In four-and-a-half years, he won eight trophies, making him the Reds' most successful boss in its 140-year history.

As well as the Gibson Cup, he guided the club to three consecutive League Cup triumphs along with two Co Antrim Shield victories.

Unconfirmed reports last night suggested that the 58-year-old had suffered a heart attack after a walk while on holiday in Spain.

In a short statement yesterday evening, the club offered its sympathies, saying it would pay a full tribute in time, but its thoughts were with the Breslin family and friends.

"Cliftonville Football Club are devastated to this evening learn of the sudden and untimely death of Tommy Breslin.

"While the Club will naturally pay a fuller tribute to Tommy very soon, at this moment in time our thoughts are very much with the Breslin family circle and all of his many friends, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy."

Current Cliftonville manager, Paddy McLaughin, offered his condolences to his family and friends. He described him as a "true Cliftonville and Irish League legend".

Breslin saw the Reds win consecutive league titles in 2013 and 2014 before dramatically resigning in September 2015, citing work commitments.

In the wake of a 6-1 defeat to Ballymena, Breslin offered his resignation, only for Cliftonville chairman, Gerard Lawlor, to reject it, telling him to sleep on it, thinking it was a knee-jerk reaction.

Mr Lawlor said he spent the next three days trying to change the manager's mind ultimately without success.

He later took temporary charge at Solitude in April 2017 after Gerard Lyttle's departure.

DUP leader, Arlene Foster, paid her respects, tweeting: "Such tragic news for local football. My thoughts and prayers are with Tommy's family and all connected with Cliftonville FC."

Co Down comedian, Shane Todd, said he had been talking to the manager on Tuesday.

He tweeted: "So sad to hear about the passing of Tommy Breslin. We sat beside him on a flight yesterday and it was very clear how nice of a man he was. Terrible news."

UTV political editor, Ken Reid, said that as well as his role in local football, Breslin "was also a very important civil servant at Stormont". "Always enjoyed his company and insight. A great man. My deepest sympathy to his family," he said.

In a statement, Crumlin club Crewe United FC, where Breslin started his playing career, said they were "deeply saddened".

"He will be forever known as not just a winner, but as a gentleman on and off the pitch, and someone who was humble despite having a wondrous talent with the ball at his feet and the admiration of anyone who was lucky enough to touch his life," they said.

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