Why Donald Trump’s pessimism should save Rafa

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Donald Trump’s $2.9 billion fortune may have failed to fund a convincing hairpiece, but the American businessman isn’t short of wisdom that the average football supporter – and chairman – could learn from.

“It’s been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking,” says the tycoon. “In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking. I always go into the deal anticipating the worst.”

Football fans, on the whole, are the opposite, despite the relentless moaning you’ll hear on every single terrace in the country, from top-end Emirates to rock-bottom Racecourse.

The proof that we’re eternally hopeful lies in the Season Preview.

Every year, we ask our expert fans where they think their side is going to finish, and without fail – across the divisions – they guess way, way too high.

Last year, only five supporters of Premiership teams expected their side to finish outside the top ten. Not one predicted they would be relegated, and ten asserted that their mob would make Europe.

Trump would soon point out that the “math” isn’t working here.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with optimism. Remember that giddy feeling you had back in August about what your lads could achieve this year? How that brilliant signing was going to usher in a new dawn?

Football couldn’t survive without it: if we were more realistic about the misfortunes we were almost certainly about to endure, most of us would give up.

It’s when this necessary optimism descends into a ludicrous sense of entitlement (a sense sharpened by the donning of rose-tinted spectacle) that things get a bit silly.

Take Rafa Benitez, who anyone will now tell you is a know-nothing pillock who couldn’t manage a cheese sandwich. Has he really failed at Anfield?

Most Liverpool fans would have bitten your arm off if you’d offered them an FA Cup win and two Champions League finals when Rafa took over in 2004. But half a season of inadequacy now seems enough to make you a moron.

Using the same yardstick, Bill Shankly should have been sacked from Liverpool in the late sixties. It took him five years to win his first title in 1964, and after lifting it again in 1966, his side won nothing for seven years and finished, on, average, fourth. Much the same Rafa.

But that’s not how we remember Shankly, is it?

Equally, it took Alex Ferguson nine years to win the title. In his third season in charge, United finished 11th. In his fourth, United were thrashed 5-1 by Manchester City, and finished 13th. The next year, they were sixth. 

We haven’t learned. Fans are more instant gratification-hungry than ever. Knees are being furiously jerked all around the country at the first sign of footballing failure.

Kevin Keegan is already being derided as a failure at Newcastle, despite inheriting an abysmal squad just over a month ago. That’s a bit daft, frankly.

Donald Trump probably isn’t interested. He’s too busy sitting in his helicopter peering through an implausible wig at his Slovakian fashion model wife. But fans everywhere could benefit from heeding his words and giving realism a go occasionally.