Stoke manager Tony Pulis believes his unsung side are now getting the respect they deserve.

However the experienced Welsh boss is not content to rest on his laurels at the Britannia Stadium.

He will not relax until the 40-point mark is attained and their Premier League status secured for a third successive season.

Stoke are only five points adrift of that target following the draw with Burnley in midweek as they head into the home game against Aston Villa.

Pulis said: "I think we have been accepted more this year after staying up. People have respected us more as a club and a team.

"I don't think we have ever been spoken of as a team that is going to get relegated after the first 10 games of the season.

"We have made progress. We are a better team than we were last year. Results prove that especially away from home.

"We want to get to 40 points and then beat 45, our total last year. Then I will be doing somersaults.

"It has been a massive learning curve for me and also for the players accepting that it is a squad game and being part of a group.

"It is not just the 11 that are picked. It is the 18-19 players who get you through a season. That is becoming more and more evident."

Ricardo Fuller, Glenn Whelan and Danny Higginbotham could come into contention against Villa.

In addition to a back problem Fuller has a touch of flu while Whelan (hamstring) and Higginbotham (back) are also having treatment for injuries.

Pulis added: "We will look at Ric and have a chat. After four and and a half years of working with Ric, I can't work him out.

"Luckily the opposition can't either, so I just hope he turns up and is ready to go."

Meanwhile, Martin O'Neill believes Gabriel Agbonlahor can become a 20 goals a season player for Aston Villa as he closes in on his first half century for the midlands club.

Agbonlahor will go into the clash at Stoke on the 49-goal mark after recovering from the stomach upset which ruled him out of the FA Cup clash at Crystal Palace.

O'Neill has challenged the England striker to next aim for a century of goals and believes he can learn from the example of Wayne Rooney in improving his all-round game.

The Villa manager told Press Association Sport: "Gabby has obviously improved since he was a kid and first came into the Villa side.

"He has got stronger for a start and his technique is improving.

"When you get to the 22-23 age bracket, you would think that players would maybe not be able to improve their technique anymore. But I think you only have to look at Wayne Rooney.

"He has said he has started practising heading goals to make himself the complete player and I think there are lessons to be learnt."

Agbonlahor's strike partner, John Carew, has put himself in contention for a starting spot after his hat-trick against Palace but it is a dilemma O'Neill welcomes.

And he is hoping the Norwegian can make a major contribution during the latter part of the campaign by being a consistent performer.

O'Neill said: "Too often there has not been that situation because players have not been available and it is nice to have that dilemma to deal with.

"It was a big boost for John to get the hat-trick and the one thing we have always said about John is that we look for that level of consistency you want in a player.

"We have seen this in the past. We sit here and we have these conversations at the time. John had a great, great end to last year, he came in and scored several goals for us.

"But it's that consistent application, which is vitally important - and this goes for any player."

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Topics:
Stoke City
Football
Premier League
Aston Villa