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Cherries: Francis vows to use his experience during run-in
SIMON Francis is convinced Cherries could cut the mustard in the Championship and is vowing to draw on all his experience to help them get there.
The dependable right-back has played a key role in Cherries’ promotion push, featuring in all but one of the club’s 32 games under boss Eddie Howe.
At 28, Francis was the oldest player in the Cherries starting line-up at Oldham seven days ago, with the average age of Howe’s team just 24.
“Luckily, I don’t feel old!” laughed Francis. “I fit in pretty well with the lads and, if I am the oldest on the pitch, then so be it.
"There are a lot of young lads in our squad and I like to add my experience to the team. I have been in this position before and have played in the Championship so know what it takes to get there.
“Without doubt, we have got a squad now that could compete in the Championship. We have got a lot of hungry young lads who want to be successful and who haven’t before played in the Championship. But we have also got players who have and have a good mix.
“I have been in and out of the Championship throughout my career and played there with Sheffield United, Bradford and Southend. I think it is as strong as it has ever been but I don’t think we would look out of place if we were to go up.”
Francis, who helped Southend reach the second flight in 2006, believes automatic promotion is still well within Cherries’ grasp.
And with just nine points separating the top 10, he knows the race is wide open.
“The intensity has been raised and the division is the tightest it has been for as long as I can remember,” said Francis, speaking ahead of today’s clash with Bury. “There are still 10 teams that could make the play-offs and the top-two places are up for grabs. We want to try to get a good goal difference because it might come down to that at the end of the season, even for automatic.
“You can’t take any team for granted and we won’t be taking Bury lightly because it is going to be one of, if not the, toughest games of the season. We are right back in it after winning two games on the trot and our aim is to remain unbeaten and see where it takes us.”