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England fans don't realize how fortunate they are

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One of the world's most tortured fanbases has something they should try to smile about.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Sport has been masking the drudgery of daily life since time immemorial: it's clearly quite a good distraction. But does it do a great job at making us much happier? Hardly.

Even for the best football teams, the fleeting joy of victory is soon replaced with a nervous anticipation of what's to come. By contrast, the pain of a defeat tends to linger all the longer. Trying to remove these emotions would be to reduce a football match to mere numbers; it would be to render sport incapable of fulfilling its original purpose. And yet, it would be an equally grave error to assume that 'x' emotion follows 'y' result with the reassuring predictability of a mathematical truth.

In fact, the relationship between the two is a complex and confusing thing, and certainly not something that can be governed by the clicks and clacks of the vidiprinter. Who can truly claim to understand the relationship between history and mentality? To suggest that results alone dictate opinions would be to deny the autonomy of football supporters; and if such freedom of thought didn't exist, perhaps by now every England fan would be printing off their Roy Hodgson masks in anticipation of a plucky but underwhelming exit in the quarterfinals of the European Championships in France this summer. As it is, a significant few are disguising their optimism with an expert touch. After all, there is a sense that we've been here before.

Of course, there is no one finer at pre-tournament self-aggrandising than the English football milieu. It only takes a few positive results for a new 'golden generation' to be heralded in the press and parroted in the pubs. And recent results have certainly been positive. England breezed their way through qualifying for the European Championships, and they'll arrive as the only team to have won all of their matches. Hodgson has handed 34 players their England debuts since taking over in 2012, with many of them talented youngsters set to form the Three Lions' backbone for the next decade.

Perhaps England fans shouldn't be so worried about positivity: after all, we have never been here before, we've only been somewhere that looks vaguely similar. The luscious landscape of optimism is as alarmingly familiar as the distant craggy coastline of major tournament humiliation, but let's not be fooled by déjà vu. None of us really know what will happen in France, but that's not sufficient an explanation to wait until July before deciding how we feel about March.

The fact is that the present feels unusually good: England have a likable and articulate manager, a burgeoning list of young talent and a style of football that is a world apart from the clipboard-and-stopwatch banks-of-four we'd come to expect. Indeed, just about the only thing England supporters have to be miserable about is the imminent return of captain Wayne Rooney (though, while we're looking on the bright side, at least it's not John Terry).

Of course, this carefree existentialism is ultimately only facilitated by the fine form of Hodgson's team. Their loss to the Netherlands on Tuesday was only their second defeat since they were eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil two years ago; it was only the fourth time they'd failed to win since. They've emerged victorious from every single one of their competitive matches, including tricky ones away in Switzerland and Slovenia. Without the fine results, the current feel-good factor wouldn't exist. Had the Three Lions not roared back from two goals down to beat Germany last Friday, and fallen flat on their faces in a boring defeat, the newspapers would be rather less effusive in their praise of Hodgson's young starlets.

But fine form doesn't always give one the opportunity to take such pleasure in the pleasant, and England fans should enjoy it while they can. Perhaps it is because this writer has traversed the path to expectationless nirvana that the life of the England supporter seems so remarkably easy; perhaps it's just because, as far as we're currently aware, they're a team of eager kids instead of hubristic Tories. But for the time being, England have plenty to be pleased about, beyond the simple fact that they've been winning games. To paraphrase Albert Camus: "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Hodgson happy."