STABILITY isn’t the most glamorous term in football. Certainly not in today’s high-octane, cash-fuelled Premier League.

“Living the dream,” as former Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale put it, has a far sexier ring to it. In Ridsdale’s case, that devil-may-care approach brought him some expensive short-term thrills – followed by a swift nosedive, from which the Elland Road club are still recovering.

While Ridsdale and Leeds were having their fun and reaching a Champions League semi-final in 2001, a similar tale of injudicious spending was unfolding in a different corner of West Yorkshire.

Bradford City gambled the family silver on a band of illustrious but ageing stars – Benito Carbone, Stan Collymore and Dan Petrescu, among them – in a bid to establish themselves in the big time.

By the time a 17-year-old Simon Francis was “thrust” into the first team, Bradford were back in the second tier. His team-mates included Gus Uhlenbeek, Michael Standing and Delroy Facey.

Francis didn’t care much for the wider picture in 2002; the circumstances of the day had hastened his breakthrough, after all.

With the benefit of hindsight, however, the Cherries captain recognises the toll relegation took on his first club.

It is one of the reasons why his team’s Premier League status, which they could conceivably secure at Sunderland tomorrow, means so much to him.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Echo, Francis said: “They were sad times at Bradford, even when I was thrust into the first team so young. I was 17 and didn’t really have a chance to take on board what all the first team players were going through.

“They were being paid a lot of money but had to drop their wages right down to what a lot of the younger lads were getting, otherwise the club would have gone into liquidation.

“They sacrificed a lot for the club, probably more than I was aware of until I left.

“I was just enjoying my football as a kid, trying to love every minute of it. And I managed to get out of there a couple of seasons later.”

Bradford were hurtling towards another relegation when Francis left in 2004. The slide continued three years later, when they tumbled into League Two. Francis’s current club, of course, are built on more solid foundations than the Leeds and Bradford editions of yore.

Nevertheless, the accounts released by Cherries this week laid bare the earth shifting riches that come with dining at the top table.

Their first Premier League campaign directly yielded a £75million bounty, largely comprised of television and prize money.

Francis, then, understands the weight of responsibility he and his team-mates carry onto the pitch every week. It will be no different at Sunderland, a club bound for the drop – and a club Francis could have joined when he escaped Bradford 13 years ago.

“It is one of my regrets really,” says the defender.

“As I was on my way to sign for Sheffield United I got a call from (then Black Cats boss) Mick McCarthy saying, ‘why don’t you carry on driving up the M1 to Sunderland’.

“It was a tough time for me. I was young and wasn’t being advised well. All my family were back in Nottingham and I had the chance to move closer to home with Sheffield United.

“It felt more comfortable for me at the time.

“What a huge club that would have been. But who knows how my career would have panned out if I had gone there? I haven’t had any regrets since, because, if I had signed for Sunderland, I might never have joined Bournemouth... and I can’t regret that!”

On the financial imperative of Cherries remaining in the top-flight, Francis adopts a phlegmatic stance. To do otherwise would be to risk becoming overwhelmed by the gravity of it all.

“We are employed by the club to do our job, first and foremost,” he says. “And we have to enjoy it, otherwise we will not have success.

“If the players are enjoying themselves and getting the right results then the club will take care of itself off the pitch.

“It has done that in the past couple of years and the manager has been a huge part of that. So has (chief executive) Neill Blake, who has been excellent, running the club in the right way.”

Francis spent the 18 months prior to signing for Cherries in 2011 with Charlton. Four years before he joined the London club they had ditched manager Alan Curbishley, his reward for comfortably keeping them in the Premier League for six seasons.

With Curbishley tossed aside, Charlton promptly plunged into the Championship. Twelve managers have passed through The Valley since and the team will finish this season in the middle of League One.

David Moyes is the ninth man to boss doomed Sunderland in the same period.

“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly,” says Francis.

“If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame.

“They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.

“But underdog stories like ours are great. It would be massive for us to beat Sunderland and give ourselves some breathing space above the bottom three.”

No talk of miracles or living a dream, Francis isn’t one for getting carried away. He knows how that can end.