EVEN though Middlesbrough endured defeat on the opening weekend of the season, the bookmakers remain convinced that promotion will be celebrated at the Riverside next May.

Jonny Howson, a £5m buy from Norwich City this summer, can fully understand why, even if he does not think the players will be taking too much notice of how the odds fluctuate.

Despite losing 1-0 at Wolves a week ago, Middlesbrough are still considered the favourites to win the Championship, although there is an acceptance that the likes of Aston Villa, Wolves and Fulham should be right in the mix too.

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Given the huge amounts of money manager Garry Monk has been able to spend since taking over, it is little wonder. And Howson believes everyone at Middlesbrough is focused on proving why.

He does not think there is any extra pressure on the squad’s shoulders because of the investment in the squad; the high expectations are why Monk has been able to attract the calibre of player he has to Teesside.

Howson said: "You can understand why we're favourites when you look who has come in. Look around the squad and it's easy to see why.

“But I am a great believer that pressure should come from within. We are in a business where you have got to be thick skinned, take the criticism, accept different opinions because sometimes you cannot change them whatever you do.

“The pressure is about getting the best out of you as possible. I think if you do that, if you can look in the mirror, give it your best shot, that's all you can do. Whatever will be, will be.”

Howson was the first of seven first team arrivals and Chelsea youngster Lewis Baker is expected to arrive next on a two-year loan. New arrivals will continue, with Monk also in the market for Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo and Birmingham defender Ryan Shotton.

Given how Monk has gone quickly about changing the face of the squad, Howson thinks the numbers coming in highlight just how determined Middlesbrough are to bounce straight back up to the top-flight.

Howson was the first of Monk’s recruits and he said: "It's something I really wanted and I thank both parties for making it happen. Going on pre-season, you could see straight away there is huge potential here.

“Yes, this club was relegated last season but the way it has gone about things this summer, giving it a real good go to get this club back to where it belongs, shows what everyone wants. If we can play to our maximum ability as individuals and as a team, we will achieve what we want this season.”

Regardless of the spending, last week’s trip to Wolves highlighted how Middlesbrough will not have it all their own way this season. A new manager and new players brings a new approach and way of thinking, so nothing will come without hard work.

Howson will find himself with a new centre-midfielder partner against Sheffield United today following Marten de Roon’s 15m euros exit to Atalanta, with Adam Forshaw the likeliest contender.

Howson knows Monk’s approach could take time to get Middlesbrough ticking. He said: "It will take a bit of work to gel. Obviously, there's a new manager coming in for those lads who have been here a few years and are used to something different.

“And, of course, some new lads too. But it cannot afford to take too long because you don't want to be playing catch up in the Championship. It's a tough enough league without giving your rivals a head start.

"We may not hit our best form straight away but it's important to pick up those early wins. You need to get points on the board as soon as possible even when you are still learning about each other.”