Expectation is everything in life. I call it the Ex Factor.
If you go on a date expecting a goodnight kiss but actually receive a hand job, you're chuffed to bits. But go on a date expecting it to end with some horizontal dancing and get a hand job, you're disappointed. That's the Ex Factor right there.
This is why it's best to expect nothing out of life; you can then never be disappointed or frustrated. Our Buddhist friends tell us that it is attachment that brings pain in this material world, which is a bit of bad news for a football fan.
While you may not feel like donning the orange robes and chanting Om, the whole issue of expectation does need to be addressed.
It's such a mercurial thing. Where does it come from? Who generates it?
As was pointed out last night, Spurs are said to be having a very good season and Harry Redknapp is endlessly hailed for it, and yet Rafa Benitez, just one point behind Spurs, is managing a club 'in crisis' and gets it in the neck from all quarters. How can this be? It's all down to expectation.
Liverpool finished second last year so many expected a similar good season and thus seem lower than where they should be, whilst Spurs are pretty much at the top of what was considered to be achievable. But let's turn that on its head.
Spurs have a massive squad of good players - probably bigger and better than Liverpool's. They've spent huge amounts of cash and yet they're still only a point ahead of Liverpool. So hang on, why are Spurs not 'in crisis'? If Liverpool is as poor as their critics say they are, this must makes Spurs just as bad? It must only be because no-one expects them to do better than fourth. Odd that isn't it. Maybe we really should expect Spurs to do better than fourth. Maybe Redknapp's judgement should be called into question. Why isn't he doing better?
Villa are a point behind Liverpool but are also widely considered to be having a great season. But if they fail to beat their previous two sixth-place finishes, how good will it really be? If Liverpool are so 'poor', why are the 'excellent' Villa not way ahead of them? Again, it's the Ex Factor.
Man City are spending the GDP of Belgium to get just one point ahead of Rafa's mob. So how good are they? And how bloody long will he wear that damn scarf - it's not even cold anymore.
So we can see Liverpool are being judged against an entirely different standard to their rivals. Essentially Rafa and his squad are being slated for not being as good as their critics think they should be, as opposed to being as good as they actually are.
Having watch a spirited, if somewhat ragged defeat of Spurs, it seems to me that Liverpool are, if anything, slightly over-performing with the talent at their disposal. Strip out the Ex Factor and you've got a side with some fairly ordinary players in the top six with every chance of finishing fourth. Hang on, isn't that actually really quite good?
Benitez is often criticised for assembling a squad of players, many of whom look short of quality, but hang on again; it's the same squad that finished second. So wasn't that actually a brilliant achievement - finishing so high with players who are so average? This season is more on par for the quality of the squad.
I wouldn't pretend that all is well at Anfield and that Benitez walks on water but they suffer much more than most from the Ex Factor. Shed the burden of it and things don't look nearly as apocalyptic.
Email by Mike Ghani