AFTER holding a preliminary budgetary discussion with his chairman, Steve Gibson, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate last night insisted he would be competing in the transfer market from a position of strength this summer.

While Southgate has been devoting the majority of his attention to this afternoon's Premiership home game with Aston Villa, he has already begun to reflect on the rebuilding programme he has planned for the summer transfer window.

His priorities will become clearer once Jonathan Woodgate and Mark Viduka decide on their plans for next season, but the Boro boss has already identified a number of targets who are likely to figure in his thoughts.

And while Southgate has yet to discuss precise figures with his chairman, he has been assured that a proportion of the £30m television-deal bonanza available to every Premiership club will head in his direction.

"I'm very comfortable with what the chairman has told me," said the Middlesbrough manager, who spent over £7.5m to sign Robert Huth and Julio Arca last summer.

"I have a fair idea of what I'll have to spend, although you can never have exact figures because where we finish in the league will have an impact on some of the income as well.

"I'm very comfortable with what the chairman has told me, although for a club like ours, I think there always has to be a balance between investing in the team and investing in the facilities and the infrastructure.

"If I was told there was no money, I wouldn't see that as a problem. As long as you know the situation, you can develop your own talent or look for free transfers. But it isn't the situation that we've got no money, and the chairman has given me a ballpark figure of what we'll be looking at. I'll have to operate within that and invest it as I see fit."

That will inevitably mean lodging formal offers for a number of high-profile targets, and Southgate has already been linked with possible summer moves for Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere, Preston frontman David Nugent and West Brom playmaker Zoltan Gera.

All three could slot straight into the Middlesbrough first-team, but after watching the likes of Andrew Taylor and Lee Cattermole cement their position in the senior ranks this season, Southgate also intends to sign a couple of youngsters to play alongside Boro's highly-rated Academy cohort.

"You have to look at everything," he said. "You have to look at other Premier League teams that might have players available, but you also have to look into the lower divisions as well.

"It's not just about players to go straight into your first team. As a club, I think we should be looking to bring in one or two players that we can develop through our reserve system and expect to compete in 18 months time."

Southgate's plans are likely to have an impact on the future of both Woodgate, who is due to return to Real Madrid at the end of the current campaign, and Viduka, who is out of contract in June.

The pair will be more likely to commit themselves to the Riverside if they can be persuaded that other big names will follow them to the North-East this summer.

Southgate intends to meet both to spell out his ambitions for the transfer window shortly but, with speculation over both Woodgate and Viduka now at fever pitch, the former Middlesbrough skipper is reluctant to push things too far.

"I'm sure Jonathan and Mark will be intrigued to know the type of players that we're looking to bring in," he explained.

"We also have to show them that we're intent on improving things here. It would be a poor message to send out if we were drifting towards the end of the season, and that's why I don't think it's acceptable for us to drift as a team or a club.

"You have to keep people in the loop, but you have to show them that you're keen and interested without pestering the life out of them."

Woodgate will be able to monitor Boro's current status at first hand this afternoon as he returns to action following a hamstring injury.

With Emanuel Pogatetz suspended, Southgate must partner the England international with either Robert Huth or Chris Riggott.

Neither has played much of a part this season, but the Boro boss has denied that today's decision will establish a pecking order that could drive one of the defenders out of the club.

"I don't see it like that," said Southgate. "Whatever decision I take will be based on this game and the games that are coming up.

"I don't see us as having a pecking order.

"I make decisions based on current form and all sorts of different situations.

"It's not a case of having a number two or a number three - everybody is fighting for a position."

With Arca doubtful because of a groin problem, Cattermole is expected to return to the side in place of Fabio Rochemback.

Boro's official supporters club meet on Monday in the Hardwick Suite at the Riverside Stadium starting at 7.30pm. Guest speaker is Woodgate.