Shanne King and Stewart Downing model the new shirt - Photo by North News and Pictures

IT'S the battle of the band. Middlesbrough FC officials are asking supporters whether or not the club's home shirt should sport a white chest band next season.

It's a straight choice for fans - do you 'Back the Band' or do you prefer 'Simply Red'?

As part of their ongoing consultations with the club's supporters, Boro are set to give fans the chance to choose the club's new-look home shirt for the 2008-09 season - but first they want them to take part in a poll on whether the traditional red shirt should feature a white chest band.

Boro officials are committed to consulting supporters more closely as the club looks to strengthen its relationship with its passionate fanbase.

John Craggs in action for Boro - Photo by Empics

The club want as many fans as possible to take part in the poll and give the club valuable feedback on an issue that has often been the subject of much debate.

Boro have historically worn red shirts with a white trim, but many fans feel the white chest band first introduced by former manager Jack Charlton in the early-1970s is now the iconic Boro brand.

In fact, the chest band has featured on Boro's home shirt in only 13 of the last 35 seasons, though it was recently worn proudly by players and fans alike in three successive seasons between 2004-07.

Malcolm Christie and Kay Murray model Boro's home kit for the 2003-04 season - Photo-North News and pictures

Fans can take part in the poll on the club's website from today by choosing either 'Back the Band' or 'Simply Red'.

Alternatively, they can vote by text. Fans in favour of a chest band should text the word 'Band' to 62299, while those who would prefer next season's shirt to have no band should text the word 'Red' to the same number. There is no charge for texting by MFC but standard network operator text rates do apply.

Voting closes at noon on Monday January 7 2008.

Boro's Chief Operating Officer Neil Bausor said: "We can't consult the fans on everything but this is one issue where we do feel that they can have a significant input.

"The white chest band is always the subject of much debate. Many believe we should adopt the band as our own as it is unique to Boro. Others feel we should stick with our traditional look of a simple red shirt with a white trim. So we have decided to let the fans choose what we should have next season."

Boro's home shirts first sported a chest band in 1973-74 when Jack Charlton led Boro to a record-breaking promotion success. The band stayed for a further four seasons of top-flight football.

The band returned for a further three seasons in the mid-1980s as Boro sank towards liquidation before its rebirth under the guidance of Steve Gibson and Bruce Rioch. It made further appearances in 1997-98 and 2000-01.

However, there was no band when Boro lifted the Carling Cup in 2004 or for the unforgettable 1996-97 campaign of two cup finals and relegation.

Boro first adopted red shirts early in the club's first season as members of the Football League in 1899. Boro's home strip as they kicked off their inaugural season in Division Two was white shirts and blue pants.

Stewart Downing - Photo by Blades

It was not until the club played Bolton in November 1899 and an obvious colour clash threatened that it was decided that the red shirts which would become synonymous with the club were first worn.

During their initial Northern League years from 1899 Boro's colours had been white - with the collars sporting a natty polka-dot design - before a switch to blue shirts in 1892 and then back to white in 1895.