Stoke striker Peter Crouch
has told Sky Sports News HQ he believes the club has the stability to put together a challenge for Europe in the coming seasons.
Mark Hughes signed a new deal last week which will keep the Welshman at the helm until the summer of 2019 after guiding the Potters to a top-half finish in the Premier League last season.
And the next step, Crouch feels, is to consolidate their status as a top-half club before making a charge for the European places.
“We try and improve each year,” said the forward, speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News HQ ahead of his side’s Saturday Night Football clash with Chelsea. “We’ve got a good points total and if we beat last year’s, that’ll be a great achievement.
“We finished in the top 10 for the first time in the club’s history last year, and we’ve been in the top 10 for a while now. We can finish as high up as eighth – which is a possibility – that’s what we’re hoping to do.
“I think it’s a very stable club and obviously the chairman is a fan who doesn’t make hasty decisions, maybe like some. He’s got the right man in place now and hopefully we can continue to improve.
“If we finish in the top 10 again this year – eighth is probably the target – then next year we can build and start going for Europe.”
The 34-year-old, who has nine goals for Stoke in all competitions this season, hailed the immediate impact Hughes made when he took over in 2013.
“Since he’s walked through the door, we’ve improved – we’re playing some good stuff,” he added.
“He’s brought some good quality into the squad – I think it’s maybe the best squad Stoke have ever had, certainly in the Premier League years, so it’s looking bright and hopefully we can continue with that.
“You might have a little blip or players might not take to things straight away, and these days you don’t get too long to put things right, but things have gone well here right from the start.”
The Potters travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday Night Football, with Hughes looking for his first-ever win as a manager at the home of his former club.
Stoke lost 2-0 at home to the Blues in the reverse fixture earlier this season and Crouch is expecting some tough battles all over the pitch once again, especially between team-mate Ryan Shawcross and Blues striker Diego Costa, should the Spain forward start.
“That’ll be enjoyable to watch,” he said.
“Obviously Costa likes to put himself about, as does Ryan. He doesn’t suffer fools, so I’m sure that’ll be an interesting contest.
“They’re a strong side full of quality players. We’ve been working on the game plan to try and combat that, and hopefully it works.
“We’ve gone away to certain places like Spurs and Man City and won this year, so we can take confidence from that.”
Tune in for Chelsea v Stoke live on Saturday Night Football, 4.45pm, Sky Sports 1 HD.
Watch the game for £6.99 with a Sky Sports Day Pass or visit www.nowtv.com if viewing from a mobile device.