Canny Pulis takes nothing for granted as Stoke keep to their three-year plan

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Tony Pulis is confident Stoke will really start to blossom if they survive their third season in the Premier League. Despite Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United, the Potteries outfit remain in the top half of the table and well-placed to avoid the annual scrap to avoid dropping back into the Championship.

Although their style of play may not please the purists, Stoke's battling qualities have made their transition from the Championship far less arduous than many others'. However, just because they have avoided trouble twice, does not mean Pulis is taking anything for granted.

"We have this three-year plan," he said. "We need three years in the Premier League to get a real foothold and enable the club to push on. The first year everybody expects you to get relegated, so there is no pressure. Then you have this second-season syndrome.

"But the third is perhaps more difficult because everyone thinks you are established. It is absolutely vital for this club."

Unlike many manager-owner relationships, Pulis is completely satisfied with the way Stoke are run. Now in his second spell as manager, Pulis has an excellent relationship with the chairman, Peter Coates, and feels vast progress has already been made in the club's development. "We have moved forward gradually since we got promoted," said Pulis. "The club is run very well financially, so it has been done in the right and proper manner. The training ground is smashing, which is something we never had before and we also have one or two decent players.

"We are not a club that is going to waste money or go millions of pounds into debt. We will move forward within a framework and structure. It is the owners' money and they want to run the club profitably, if they can. They have done that fantastically during the five-and-a-half years I have been here."

But, as Pulis points out, the margins are fine. After Tuesday night's results, only 11 points separate the foot of the table with seventh spot, so no one at the Britannia Stadium is getting carried away.

"It is going to be very tight at the bottom," said Pulis. "There are going to be a lot of clubs involved in it. But if we can get to 42 points as quick as we can, we can start planning to move the club forward again."