Michael Kelly: Glasgow faces new fight for top spot

Events in football and the election didn't go the way I wanted them to - but it's still all to play for

I WAS appalled by the events at Celtic Park last Sunday when Celtic lost the league. No, there was no sectarian singing. There were no unsavoury incidents on the pitch. There was no crowd trouble in the stands. It was worse. The fans celebrated defeat. They wallowed in it. They sang and they danced as they found reasons to look on the bright side of humiliation. Misguided souls. All they were doing was laying the foundations for future losses.

Defeat stinks. Scarves should have been thrown on to the track, season tickets torn up. Dressing room doors should have been kicked in, tea cups smashed. That's how winners react to victory being thrown away.

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We all know that American football coach Vince Lombardi said: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."

And he added: "If you can accept losing, you can't win." You don't befriend defeat, you ostracise it.

I thought Jock Stein had cured Celtic. A season before he arrived and turned Celtic round we were gubbed 3-1 by Real Madrid. The fans demanded a lap of honour from the team, and the club was daft enough to grant it. Stein changed that and made winning the lifestyle of choice. But old habits die hard and the habit of glorifying defeat is deeply set in the Scottish psyche.

Along with the Irish, our songs, poems and folklore extol death and defeat as much as they do the odd away win. Let me amend that. We've never had an away win. Flodden, Culloden, the execution of William Wallace are as good reasons for a sing-song as Bannockburn and, er, Bannockburn. Even the lyrics of Braes of Killiecrankie-o mask the fact that we were only as good as our last game. Scotland went down in the return leg at Dunkeld a month later.

Contrast this approach with that of successful nations, like, say, England. Rule Britannia is an anthem of dominance. And the US belts out hymns to victory 'from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.'

My reaction to Labour's throwing away the recent election is the same as that I have to Celtic's meekly submitting to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Anger and a thirst for quick revenge.

Former Labour Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy's comment that we "must stop feeling sorry for ourselves" hit the wrong note. If Jim wants to save the union, he should get himself into Holyrood and fight. Tea, sympathy and reviews of tactics come from mixing too closely with defeated candidates.

The party workers who trailed forlornly round the doors for months up until 5 May and who spent hours on phones being lied to by former Labour voters do not feel sorry from themselves. The grass roots don't fall for the pap that the voters are always right.

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Rather they are angry that voters are so easily fooled. They are disgusted that all their hard work was wasted in a badly directed campaign. They are winners. They want to get back on the pitch to set the record straight. Fortunately, there is the chance to do that with the local elections next year. And Alex Salmond has just rode into Glasgow and thrown down the gauntlet. He reads the Holyrood election results as suggesting he can win a majority on Glasgow City Council.

Ostensibly to improve the running of Scotland's biggest local authority, what this tactic actually involves is stealing all the glory that the Commonwealth Games will bring and using the pride that they will generate as a backdrop for his independence referendum. Alex, we can see you coming a mile away.

This, of course, is the same First Minister who cut the budget for the legacy of investment and employment in the East End of Glasgow to be delivered through Clyde Gateway. And who abandoned the rail link to the airport? And who imposed savage cuts in the central funding of our biggest city to subsidise tiny SNP controlled councils? And who ditched the new City of Glasgow College? And who denied Glasgow an expansion of its borrowing powers while endorsing Edinburgh's proposals? And who failed to improve a penal roads funding policy? And who denies national funding status to the city's internationally renowned museums?

Labour has nothing to beat here. What has the SNP government done for Glasgow? Nothing. On policy grounds, the SNP will find this a difficult election to fight. But there is more cause for Labour confidence.

The SNP response to its victory in the recent Scottish parliamentary election has been unexpectedly subdued. And it was a friendly match - a no-risk election with voters taking out their frustration on Labour knowing that they were not voting for independence.

After sweeping the boards I would have expected triumphant celebration - the waving of flags and banners, the shouting of slogans, the quick march to a separate state.

Instead of pressing home the victory, the SNP are pushing independence-lite - an American-style brand name for losing one's bottle.

Because, seeing themselves coming down the home stretch, the SNP have been hit by the feeling familiar to many a team in the last ten minutes of a match. They are scared of winning.

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It's the old losing psyche again ingrained by decades of setbacks and years of disappointment. It also betrays a lack of confidence in the basic proposition that cutting us off from the large, successful, globally- significant United Kingdom may not be such a good idea, after all.

Settle for the familiar, change to a diluted version of Coke - same great flavour, less than half the London interference.By the time the teams take the park for next year's fixture, Labour will have rediscovered the winning mentality that has kept it in power in Glasgow for forty years.

The SNP's organisation on the ground in Glasgow was, it has to be said, outstanding and turned out a record number of supporters last month.

But Labour knows how to mount a comeback.

And the SNP has never turned the odd council by-election own goal by Labour into a winning run.

I'm less convinced that Celtic have the right attitude to win the league next season. But we can work on that.