England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd has claimed he has an "utterly impossible job", with his team on the verge of an exit from under-21 Euro 2021.
Boothroyd's youngsters have lost their first two group matches in the rearranged tournament, to Switzerland and Portugal respectively.
The defeats have left England needing to beat Croatia by at least two goals on Wednesday, while hoping that Portugal overcome Switzerland, to reach the quarter-finals, which take place later this year.
Jadon Sancho, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are among the star names Boothroyd could have had at his disposal for the competition, though all of them are now seen as senior players, with only Liverpool full-back Alexander-Arnold not selected in Gareth Southgate's squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers.
Nevertheless, Boothroyd has still been able to call upon several players who are regulars for Premier League teams, though one of those – Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi – has suffered an injury and will miss the Croatia clash.
There has been doubt over Boothroyd's position, with England U21s having failed to make it out of the group in the 2019 Euros, after falling out in the semi-finals in 2017, but the former Watford manager has defended his work.
"I know the senior men's job has been called the impossible job but the U21s is the utterly impossible job," he told reporters.
"The reason is the amount of players who have to be produced for the senior team and we are expected to win.
"There's a reason why we haven't won this for 37 years and why we haven't progressed as much as we thought we would, because our primary aim is to get players through to Gareth [Southgate].
"Could you imagine a reserve-team manager knocking on the door of a senior manager at a club and saying 'listen boss, I think today you should let me have the best player to win the reserve championship'. That just wouldn't happen.
"The only team that needs to win is the senior team. Everywhere else, winning is part of it, drawing is part of it and having adversity is part of it.
"The reason I say that it is the utterly impossible job is because new players come in, younger players come in and the wheel starts again.
"My job isn't to say to Gareth we should have Jude, Phil or Mason, it is about the senior team and it always will be.
"If someone is doing this job and hiding players and not allowing them to go forward then the system is flawed. I don't want to be the whinge bag to defend myself. They are facts but they are what the job is."
Boothroyd replaced Southgate as U21 boss, with the now England manager having impressed the FA during his stint in charge of the youth team.
Asked for his view on the U21s' disappointing campaign, Southgate told a news conference: "I think it's a difficult balance. Nobody really thinks about the U21s until you get to the finals, then you are judged.
"It's development football, although those players are good players, they're normally surrounded by experienced players. When they are playing as an age-group together, it's a different challenge.
"It's always difficult to be U21 head coach. The timing of this tournament, coinciding with World Cup qualifiers. We want to try to win tournaments, we've benefited from that when the U17s and U20s won the World Cup.
"But development football throws up all sorts of things. I went to a European Championship, we had a fantastic game with Portugal that we lost. You never know what generation the other countries have got. When the results don't go your way, you find out so much about the players."