THE profile of Steve McClaren has never been so vibrant. Leading Middlesbrough to their first major piece of silverware in February led to him being branded as one of the top manager's around.

That is why the name of McClaren is mentioned as a replacement for Sven-Goran Eriksson every time uncertainty surrounding the future of the England manager surfaces.

But, as Boro head into the new season under their enterprising boss, there is more pressure on McClaren than ever to ensure his side perform on the Premiership stage.

Regardless of what happens in the future, the Yorkshireman will forever be fondly remembered as the man who guided the Teesside outfit to their first trophy in the club's history and so he should be.

However, having convinced chairman Steve Gibson to pay out lucrative wages this summer in acquiring players with top reputations, this is the season when Gibson will be looking for Boro to better their highest Premiership finish.

With Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Mark Viduka, Bolo Zenden, Michael Reiziger and Ray Parlour on board, finishing above the ninth place achieved under the Bryan Robson regime in 1999 is a must.

In McClaren's three previous years he guided his side to 12th in his first campaign in charge and then 11th in the two subsequent seasons.

But, with the current squad he has at his disposal, a place in the top six is what he has set his sights on.

Anything less will regarded as a failure by the players, coaching staff and the Riverside hierarchy.

There has been a massive change in transfer policy adopted by McClaren during the summer. This time last year he was on the look-out for young, British talent with plenty of hunger.

Fulham's young midfielder Sean Davis, now at Tottenham, was high on his list of targets and that was the brand of player being sought by the Boro boss.

But, having guided the club to that elusive trophy, there has been a huge change of thought in McClaren's way of thinking - in fact the signings this summer have even teetered on the brink of following the example set by Robson during his tenure.

The ageing experienced professional, who would cost more than the average Premiership professional in wages, Hasselbaink, Reiziger and Parlour are all over 30.

The phrase Dad's Army has been used on more than one occasion since Parlour arrived at the club's Rockliffe Park training HQ but McClaren needed to attract this calibre of player if Boro are to make a concerted push for further glory this season.

The foundations have been laid at grassroots level.The club have already started reaping the rewards - in the shape of the FA Youth Cup they won in April - from an exceptional Academy.

And if Boro really do want to keep making strides then they must make sure the arrivals of the star names do not hinder the progression of rising stars such as Tony McMahon, James Morrison and Andrew Taylor.

McClaren insists that is his aim: "We have shown throughout the last three years that youth is very important.

"If we can bring in seniors as well then that can only do good for the kids coming through," he says.

"We are building the foundations and everyone got excited. This is just the start."

Having taken that step onto the European stage, Boro's own profile will also be taken on that extra level.

As well as showing plenty of ambition and persuasive powers, the lure of playing in the UEFA Cup has been a major advantage to both McClaren and chief executive Keith Lamb as they lured the likes of Viduka and Hasselbaink to Teesside.

More success should lie around the corner for Boro, but there will be a few red faces around the Riverside come May if their aims have not been fulfilled.

Read more about Middlesbrough here.