Boro fans told to set lower targets


English FA Premiership: Middlesbrough's chief executive Keith Lamb warns supporters in today's match programme that the club will have to reduce its ambitions and squad if attendances continue to decline. It is the first public indication that Boro's chairman-benefactor Steve Gibson may be disillusioned.

Describing attendances this season at the Riverside Stadium as "very disappointing", Lamb writes: "If the solution to filling the ground is reducing ticket prices then we will have to cut our cloth accordingly. Eventually, Teesside will have the football club the town's resources can afford."

Those comments would not be made without Gibson's approval and they suggest the chairman is very low after home league defeats by the likes of Sunderland, Charlton and latterly Blackburn Rovers. There was also a Uefa Cup attendance of only 9,000 for the Litex Lovech match.

There have been complaints from supporters about ticket prices, and live television coverage has clearly eaten into gates. Today's game against Manchester City is Boro's first Saturday 3pm kick-off of the season. Lamb acknowledges TV coverage as an issue but adds that it is "strange" that ticket prices have not previously been mentioned as a factor.

He writes that "poor home performances have obviously had an effect" but says that Steve McClaren's squad will have to be cut before it can be given more quality. "Steve is aware that we have a big squad with a surplus of players in some positions," he says. "It is therefore reasonable to expect players to leave the club before we make new signings."

McClaren said: "I would like to improve and strengthen in midfield but the situation is that we have to look the other way and get players out first."

One piece of good news for the manager is George Boateng is expected to sign a new contract, but his fellow Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is on the list of players Boro are ready to offload. His wages are substantial, as are those of Ray Parlour, another player Middlesbrough are prepared to see leave.

Sheffield United are set to sign the West Brom striker Geoff Horsfield on loan with a view to a permanent deal worth around £300,000. Horsfield signed a new two-year contract at The Hawthorns in August but has only started one Premiership match in the last two months. Horsfield is expected to initially agree a three-month loan.

Wigan's striker Jason Roberts will not face any disciplinary action from the English Football Association following an elbow incident at West Ham on Wednesday. The referee Steve Bennett has confirmed to the FA that he saw the incident in which Roberts caught James Collins in the face in the 2-0 win but decided that it did not warrant any action.

Fulham plan to extend Brian McBride's contract next month.The 33-year-old United States striker's current contract at Craven Cottage ends this summer.

Guardian Service