Martin O'Neill was never fooled even when Aston Villa were sitting in the top six of the Premiership last October and were still undefeated.
Now that the situation is reversed, and Villa have won only twice in 19 matches, he is actually more confident. Or, at least, he says he is.
But he knows better than anyone that Villa's results since their victory away to Everton on November 11 have been worse than those of Charlton Athletic (present position 18th) and only just better than those of Watford (bottom).
And Charlton have one thing that Villa do not have: momentum.
Charlton won seven points in their past three matches and are only seven points behind Villa.
It is conceivable, though highly unlikely, that Villa could slip into the bottom three if they lose at home to Wigan Athletic on April 9. Then there really would be a relegation battle.
When Villa lost 4-1 away to Everton on March 18, 2006, they were on 34 points, having played 30 matches — exactly where they stand today. Villa are better defensively now than they were last season but are not scoring as many goals.
So why O'Neill's optimism? And why are the supporters giving the team the benefit of the doubt when they were clearly, and quite properly, not prepared to do that this time last year?
One can cite four main reasons: Villa's performances are better than they were last season, the squad is stronger, O'Neill is a better manager and a more attractive person than David O'Leary, and the vagaries of the fixture list have obstructed Villa this season.
But facts are facts. Bad results can breed a lack of confidence. A stronger squad on paper does not necessarily equate to a stronger team on the pitch.
Two of O'Neill's signings, Stiliyan Petrov and Ashley Young, have taken time to settle (but Young deserves more time until judgment can be passed).
John Carew has settled in quickly, has become a significant presence up front, and is a player around which a team can be built. But Carew, for all his attributes, will not score 20 goals a season — especially when he plays up front alone.
Gabriel Agbonlahor looks tired, Martin Laursen is too injury-prone, Patrik Berger is useful for only the final 15 minutes, and Shaun Maloney is virtually untried.
The full-backs, Phil Bardsley and Wilfred Bouma, are astute defensively and an improvement on their predecessors but are not known for being de facto wingers.
During the run of two wins in 19 matches, Villa’s best players are those whose reliability has never been in question; those who are more known for stability than creativity.
Thomas Sorensen has made some crucial saves, Olof Mellberg and Gary Cahill have forged a useful partnership at centre back, while Gareth Barry and Gavin McCann have performed well against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Mellberg and Barry, both of whom have survived since the John Gregory era, have been particularly inspired and particularly inspiring.
Villa have conceded only 35 goals this season, a better defensive return than those of Tottenham Hotspur, Bolton Wanderers, Reading and Blackburn Rovers.
Goals are Villa's problem. They have scored only 29 in 30 matches, fewer than 14 Premiership clubs, including Fulham and Wigan Athletic.
It is hard to comprehend that, on November 11 after defeating Everton at Goodison Park, Villa were in the top four and exuding confidence. In 18 matches since, they have secured only 13 points. That is nearly half a season of activity. In their opening 12 matches, with a weaker squad, they secured 21 points.
O’Neill said: "We certainly have more choice and, when I took over in August, I felt that once the transfer deadline had passed [on August 31], if we hit the buffers, it could be a difficult couple of months.
"As it turned out, we got off to a good start, which has stood us in good stead, and I think we are improving as a team — but it actually hasn't shown yet.
"I actually feel more confident at this minute about the side than in October. Whether that is misplaced or not, then I will have to examine myself.
"We are obviously in the results business. We have to win some games. I am aware of that all the time. If it does change in our favour, and we win a game or two when playing poorly, so be it. The bottom line is we haven't done it and I am not talking from a fantastic position of strength.
"The bottom line is that, in my view, we will win a sufficient number of matches to be playing in the big league next season and I think we will improve significantly. That is my view."
It is a fair assessment but the Premiership table should reflect Villa's improvement under O'Neill — the statistics are barely any different to what they were when O'Leary was in charge.
Still, perception is everything in football, and no-one would rather O'Leary still be in charge.
O'Neill still walks on water and it will be six months or so before he needs to even think about swimming.