TONY MOWBRAY has denied that the race to gain promotion to the Premier League is about the survival of the richest.
The Middlesbrough manager has been buoyed by the ability of Reading, Blackpool and Burnley to gain promotion from the npower Championship in recent years, and believes his side, operating on their smallest budget yet since relegation from the top flight in 2009, is no different.
The top two sides in the Championship, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers, both benefit from Premier League parachute payments following their relegations in 2011 and last season respectively, while Middlesbrough will see no further money from the Premier League after receiving their final £8m payment last season.
Loading article content
And Rovers, who Boro visit this evening, have been able to retain much of the squad that played top-flight football last season, while being able to attract Jordan Rhodes from Huddersfield for £8million, former Portugal international Nuno Gomes, and ex-Fulham playmaker Danny Murphy.
However, Mowbray thinks that money is not necessarily a defining factor in the promotion race.
"There's enough evidence of teams in the last few years in the Championship punching above their weight, of teams getting out of this division without parachute payments," the Boro boss said.
"Yet, as last season showed the three teams relegated from the Premier League all finished in the top six.
"I'd have to say I fully expect Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves to be in the top six come the end of the season, because of the quality of their players, not the money they have, but the players they have retained. Good players win football matches.
"We go there with every intention of giving them a difficult night and winning the football game. If the team with all the money always won everything, nobody would bother going to football.
"Manchester City would win the Champions League and the Premier League again. It doesn't work like that."
Reading, who were second bottom of the division at this stage last season, ended as champions, and Mowbray, after seeing his Boro side well-beaten by the Royals at the Riverside last season, knows the formula for success is not strictly financial.
"We've had Blackpool get out of this league, Burnley, Hull City, you've had teams get out of this league with not the biggest budgets," said Mowbray, who has no fresh injury concerns ahead of tonight's game.
"Reading won the league last year, and didn't have anywhere near the biggest budget. You have to have an organised, motivated and disciplined and talented football team to compete.
"We know there's a chance. Our expectation is to be at the right end of the table this season. We wouldn't bother turning up if we're not going to try to get out of this league.
"Our ambition is to get back to the Premier League so we have to try and be competitive in every game, find the consistency in our performances and stay at the top end of the table.
"It's not easy, there's a lot of good teams in there this season. As well as the parachute payments, there are some foreign owners with cash to spend, it's a tough league this year, stronger than last year."
Boro travel to Lancashire this evening three days after facing Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, but Mowbray is not complaining.
He said: "It's the Championship, this is what we get - we had it last year. Tonight is our third game in six days, you have to play what's in front of you.
"How tough is it? It's the same for everybody. You get a day here, a day there, you might have played on a Sunday but we're playing on a Friday and it's a day less.
"It's the same for Blackburn. We'll go and compete and try and get a result."