With Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson privately reaffirming his commitment to the club amid speculation on Teesside that his enthusiasm may have waned, and with manager Gareth Southgate talking of ‘‘wholesale changes’’ as Boro prepare for the expected drop to the Championship tomorrow at West Ham, planning at the Riverside is moving at some pace.
It is understood that Boro’s debt will be less than £30m by the end of their next financial year as the club restructures, which is considerably lower than the £85m generally estimated. Club sources have explained that the fact that Boro’s financial year ends on 31 December – as opposed to most clubs where it is 31 July and the end of player contracts – means that they feel their finances are sometimes misconstrued.
A series of deferred incoming payments are said to have distorted Boro’s much-discussed economic state. Published accounts will eventually reveal the true extent of Boro’s debt but there is confidence at the Riverside that it will be manageable regardless of whether the club is relegated tomorrow or not.
The debt increased as Boro spent money on vast salaries, a policy that saw them win their first major trophy in 2004, the League Cup, and then reach the Uefa Cup final two years later.
Under Southgate, spending has been curtailed, and Gibson is understanding of that but a detailed review of where Middlesbrough’s season has gone wrong will begin soon.
Southgate yesterday described Gibson as ‘‘angry’’ but it appears their relationship is strong.
‘‘He is very focused on the future, he doesn’t enjoy the situation we are in,’’ Southgate said. ‘‘He is angry about the position we are in but he also knows the reasons why. He knows them because he is here on the inside.
‘‘He is very supportive. He is very level-headed and has got life in perspective, but it is his money and his football club. He is passionate about it. He is a fan and he will be as emotional as any supporter will be on Sunday. He is one of the few chairman who is a supporter of the club that he owns.’’
Evolution had been Boro’s policy previously but Southgate added: ‘‘After the results we’ve had this season it would be folly not to make wholesale changes.’’