Middlesbrough captain Rhys Williams believes lower expectations could suit his side ahead of their upcoming Championship campaign.
Boro have often been among the pre-season favourites since being relegated from the Premier League during the 2008/09 season.
But they have only finished in the top 10 in the Championship once in four seasons, with their awful run after Christmas last campaign costing them any chance of promotion.
Williams, 25, said not being fancied for promotion was just fine by Tony Mowbray's men.
"Maybe it'll be to our advantage that people aren't really talking about our chances too much," Williams told The Northern Echo.
"We know we're a big club, but maybe people have seen the dip after Christmas in the last couple of years and written us off a bit. That could work in our favour, time will tell.
"We've all really enjoyed pre-season and feel really fit. Hopefully, judging by our pre-season friendlies, we're looking sharp and not conceding many goals.
"The boys have looked good right through pre-season and there's a real determination to get it right."
Mowbray's side, who have lost several senior members of last season's squad, start their campaign with a clash at home to Leicester City on Saturday.
They have added the likes of Dean Whitehead and Jozsef Varga while being linked to several others, including West Ham striker Ricardo Vaz Te.
Williams said the players had been reflecting on what went wrong in the New Year and are eager to take the next step in 2013/14.
"I think all of the boys will have thought about what happened last season, where it went wrong and what we can do better," he said.
"It's run through the whole club, even the fans. We're all in this together and we're ready to come back and start again.
"What happened last season was difficult to take, but it's been good to have the summer break and have a bit of time away from things. Some players have gone and a couple have come in.
"It's a tighter squad, and hopefully we can kick on that one step further this year."
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