STEVE GIBSON will make a decision on Steve Agnew’s future in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s final game of the season at Liverpool, having conceded he is considering changes that “affect people who are not currently at the club”.

However, the Middlesbrough chairman has struck a defiant note in the wake of relegation by insisting the Teessiders will be looking to “smash the league” when they return to the Championship next season.

A series of issues will have to be addressed once Boro’s one-year spell in the Premier League officially comes to an end this weekend, but by far the most significant relates to Agnew’s current position as head coach.

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The former assistant is keen to remain in his current role, but has claimed just six points from his ten matches since replacing Aitor Karanka and does not appear to enjoy the backing of a large majority of Boro fans.

Gibson was reluctant to say too much about Agnew’s future when he broke his media silence in an interview with BBC Tees on Saturday night, but he tellingly referred to the possibility of bringing in people ‘from outside the club’ when he was asked to discuss his future plans.

For all that he continues to consider Agnew as a viable candidate, he is understood to have spent the last two weeks assessing potential external options for the head coach role and is now expected to look elsewhere.

Ryan Giggs is the favourite with the bookmakers, and the former Manchester United midfielder has a powerful ally in former Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon, who will be a key part of Boro’s recruitment process in his role as an advisor to Gibson and Boro chief executive Neil Bausor.

Giggs has never managed, and was recently turned down by Swansea City, but the Welshman boasts extensive experience of working under Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, and Gibson appointed both Karanka and Gareth Southgate without either having previous experience of frontline management.

Nigel Pearson and Alan Pardew are leading managerial candidates who are currently out of work, with the former believed to have been considered as a potential replacement for Karanka when the Spaniard left in March.

David Wagner, Garry Monk and Simon Grayson are likely to be of greatest interest when it comes to managers who have been working in the Championship this season, although Wagner’s availability will be heavily influenced by Huddersfield’s performance in the play-offs.

“Our plans have to be to change all aspects of the club,” said Gibson. “We’ve spent the last month looking at what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and how it can be better.

“I’ve got to be careful in what I say because it affects others who are currently within the club and it affects others who are currently not at the club. I think the fans will want me to deliver rather than talking about potentially delivering. We have to get it absolutely right.

“I’ve got thoughts (on the manager situation), but I’ll keep them to myself. When we’re ready to announce that, we will. We’ve got some great people here at Middlesbrough Football Club, and it has been painful since Christmas for all of us, but we’ve got to be tenacious and take it on the chin, and we have to move on. We have to get fired up now and start what we want to do for next season.”

That process will involve a number of players leaving, with Alvaro Negredo and Calum Chambers sure to depart once their loan deals expire, and Brad Guzan, Victor Valdes and Gaston Ramirez also expected to head through the exit doors.

The financial impact of relegation will be softened by a £44m parachute payment, and having banked more than £100m from this season’s spell in the top-flight, Gibson is confident there will be significant funds available for signings this summer.

As a result, and with the core of the side that secured promotion 12 months ago still present, Boro’s chairman insists the Championship title has to be only target next term.

“There’s only one place I want this club, and that’s in the Premier League,” he said. “We’re going to work our socks off to get back up there. We’ve got a great opportunity in terms of resource. The club is well run and we are in a good stable financial position. We should have more resource going into next season than any other club.

“There can be no other objective – we want to smash the league next year. We want to go up next year as champions.

“You need to bring in a certain type of player if you’re going to do what I’ve just said we’re going to do. We have a core of players here who we feel are more than capable, but we need to add to them. There needs to be more flair in the team, and more pace in the team, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Gibson admits he has made mistakes this season, and cites a collective responsibility for relegation that encompasses everyone on the playing, coaching and executive side of the club.

Karanka’s departure at a crucial stage of the season was clearly a major factor in things unravelling, although Gibson also flagged up failings with recruitment as a key explanation for this season’s struggles.

“Many things have gone wrong,” he said. “Our recruitment policy wasn’t what we would wish it to be, and we had some disruption on the management side during the season and it’s affected the players on the pitch.

“The decision (on Karanka) made itself over the passage of time. It’s very easy looking back on a relegation and the tough season we’ve had to look for scapegoats, and I don’t want to do that. There is a collective responsibility as a club, from me as the chairman right the way through the club. We’ve failed and we know that. It hurts, and we have to correct that. We have to correct the hurt.”

The pain was apparent on Saturday, with a section of the home fans booing their own players and chanting in support of Karanka rather than backing Agnew. It was a difficult afternoon for the current head coach, but he has no complaints about the attitude of the supporters.

“To be honest, to stand in a technical area is my responsibility,” said Agnew, whose decision to hand Patrick Bamford a first league start since his last spell on Teesside was rewarded when the striker scored Boro’s second-half consolation. “I understand the frustration from the crowd.

“We’ve had a really disappointing season, and all of us have to accept responsibility. I have every faith and belief in Middlesbrough Football Club being very successful in the league we’re going to play in (next) season.”