Premier League survival is first priority for Cherries before aiming for club-record finish
SKIPPER Simon Francis insisted maintaining their Premier League status had to be Cherries’ main priority before they could contemplate achieving another record finish.
Francis, who captained Cherries to their famous win at Chelsea on Wednesday, led Eddie Howe’s troops to ninth in the top flight last season – the highest in the club’s history.
It also marked a sixth successive season of improvement during Howe’s two spells as manager, a period which started with him guiding Cherries to 21st in League Two.
Victory at Stamford Bridge hoisted Cherries to 10th, their highest placing during a campaign which saw them spend eight of the first 10 matchweeks in the relegation zone.
It also extended to six games a club-equalling best unbeaten run in the top flight which has taken them from third bottom on Boxing Day to the top half, five points clear of safety.
Speaking to the Daily Echo ahead of the visit of Stoke City on Saturday, Francis said: “First and foremost, we still have our eye on maintaining our Premier League status.
“That has always been the most important thing and has been in the past two seasons. Then, we ask where can we go and can we kick on?
“We know how tight it is and how important wins are. We are six games unbeaten and want to try to break the club record in the top flight.
“We have three massive games coming up and that is why it was important for us to be in a good position going into these games.
“They are going to be more important than Wednesday because we know we can’t take our foot off the gas. We can’t over-celebrate and need to focus on Stoke.
“We have always set our standards high and the start of the season didn’t go to plan.
“We set out some goals and wanted to improve, that has always been the aim of this club and the manager has instilled that belief and determination in us to try to improve year-on-year.
“Improvement on last season would be a higher position but finishing in and around there would be massive for the club and that will be our aim.”
Discussing the Chelsea win, he added: “People may look at the result and think we got lucky but anyone who watched the game will know we deserved it.
“We were ecstatic with the win but didn’t go over the top. It wasn’t as if we nicked it 1-0 and it was backs to the wall, like in our first season when we won there.
“We were excellent. Our game plan was to go after them from the start and we did. It was a deserved win and right up there with the biggest we have had.”