Blake defends English system
England Under-19s coach Noel Blake says possession football is part of his players' "DNA", and insists they have what it takes to win the European Championships in Estonia.
The Under-19s begin the tournament against Croatia on Tuesday with the spotlight once again on English football in the wake of the senior side's obvious shortcomings in their Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat to Italy.
Blake laments the fact that the shortcomings of the seniors always filters down to the Football Association's coaching system, and said: "We do a lot of practice with players in tight areas, the Spanish have their tiki-taka, one-touch, two-touch - we do it all the time, but that is not reported because people do not see it, they only see what happens at the senior end."
The 50-year-old insists there are reasons to be positive about the future, and added: "They are keeping the ball 24/7, with a purpose. That is our DNA. The lads don't get the recognition which they deserve. Clubs are working very hard producing players, but they do not seem to get the credit.
"I go around the academies and I see people teaching kids to play the right way, there is some terrific work going on. Equally there is room for massive improvement at some clubs, but it is unfair to say we are not doing this, because then we are tarring everybody with the same brush."
He added: "Some good players have come through the system in recent times. If we were not producing players, I would be the first to say this is not right.
"You cannot just clean everything out all in one go. It is a matter of drip feeding. It is about when and how you put these boys in."
England face Serbia and France in the group stage, looking to make progress which would secure a place at next year's Under-20 World Cup.
Blake has seen his preparations hampered by injuries, promotions to the Under-21s, and even elevations to the senior group for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and goalkeeper Jack Butland.
But the coach believes his squad can build on their success at the under-17s tournament two years ago. "The challenge for our players is this: no team has won the tournament as a year group at Under-17s and then Under-19s," Blake said. "They know the expectations within the group, and it is also important about the way we will try to play."
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