Stoke City: We're not the real deal yet, says Gerry Francis
STOKE City's coaching consultant Gerry Francis says the club still has to prove it's a fully established Premier League outfit.
Francis, who is in his fifth season as part of the backroom staff, admits the club deserves all the plaudits for their progress since promotion in 2008.
But he added: "It's not true to say we are established because we haven't finished in the top half of the table yet.
"It's the hardest league in the world to stay in. There's been a lot of teams over the years that have come up and gone down again. And it's going to be even tougher this year.
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"Every year we have to try and improve."
He says he could never have foreseen still being employed by Stoke after first joining the club straight after promotion four years ago.
"I was only going to come back from retirement for one season," he chuckled.
"But it's been a hugely successful time and I've loved it. It's been really enjoyable.
"All the backroom staff have done a fantastic job and working with and coaching top players is always something I've had a buzz about."
Francis, who can gauge the effect of Stoke's support after watching games from the directors' box, says they must continue their headline role in years to come.
"Our fans are the noisiest I've ever heard and I've been around a while," he added.
"It's vital they carry that on. You still need that help and support which has made our home record, in particular, so good over the years.
"You've seen that with the GB team in the Olympics, the effect on the runners and the riders.
"It's the same in football if you think you can have 30,000 willing you on.
"That's why we have got the points at home to stay up because our points total away from home hasn't been so good – and that's something we have to work on.
"Sometimes, on bigger pitches, it's not always as easy to get our game going.
"But over the last four years we have slowly got better players in to keep the ball and recruited better technical players.
"And I think everybody, from the chairman through, should be proud of what has been achieved."