Stoke boss Tony Pulis in mood to celebrate status
Stoke are laying on a celebration of their 150th anniversary on Sunday and manager Tony Pulis believes they reach the landmark as an established top-flight side for the first time.
Pulis guided the side into the Barclays Premier League in 2008 and, barring an inconceivable sequence of results elsewhere, will compete in a sixth consecutive season at that level next term.
"I think that's it now. I think we have worked hard enough to be looked upon as an established Premier League club after six years," he said.
"I think the outlook has been changing for a few years. We have secured the chance for our sixth consecutive season in the Premier League and that's fantastic for a club once going nowhere as an average Championship side - let's not kid ourselves there - but now an established Premier League club."
Despite that assertion, Pulis remains fully aware of how precarious any team's position can be in an unpredictable football climate. After last week's 1-1 draw at Sunderland his side were in sight of their best ever finish at the highest level despite not yet being mathematically safe from the drop.
Criticism from the stands has been more noticeable than ever before this season, but with a top-half finish still on the cards Pulis sees that as a result of rising expectations rather than any under-performance on his part.
"I think it's been a surreal season, not just for Stoke, but for the Premier League. Before Wigan's game on Tuesday night, we were 11th and still in contention to get relegated which is unbelievable; I've never known that," he said.
"We've done it (survived) in the past with seven or eight games to go and it's been a walk in the park but it's very different this year.
"People expect more and that's the way it is. The more successful you are the more they want. That's a challenge for everybody here.
"If you don't reach the standards some people think you should be reaching they criticise you."
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