How will relegated sides fare in the Championship?

Jamie Vardy of Leicester (left), Ethan Ampadu of Leeds (centre) and Shea Charles of Southampton (right)
Former England striker Jamie Vardy (left) will look to help Leicester to promotion to the Premier League, while Leeds and Southampton have both invested in youth in the form of Ethan Ampadu (centre) and Shea Charles (right)

It’s been a summer of major upheaval for the three clubs relegated from the Premier League in May.

Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton have all had a change in the dug-out as well as overhauls of their respective squads, while the Whites also go into the season with new owners.

The trio will all be hoping to do what Burnley managed last season and bounce back at the first attempt, but fans will know the road ahead is unlikely to be quite that smooth.

After their previous relegations from the top flight, all three all ended up dropping as low as League One before eventually climbing back to the top table of English football.

BBC Sport takes a look at how the season is shaping up for the Foxes, Whites and Saints before the south coast team get the EFL season under way at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

Leicester City

What happened? From 5,000-1 Premier League winners in 2016 to relegation in 2023, the Foxes’ fall from grace has been steep and unexpected.

The East Midlands side endured a wretched start to the campaign before a run of five wins in eight league games before the World Cup break in November eased relegation concerns.

However, they won just two of the subsequent 13 league games before sacking Brendan Rodgers.

Ex-Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was brought in for the final eight matches but, despite victory over West Ham on the final day, their eventful nine-season spell in the top flight came to an end.

Leicester City boss Enzo Maresca
Enzo Maresca played in English football’s second tier during his time with West Bromwich Albion between 1998 and 2000

Who’s in charge? Former West Brom midfielder Enzo Maresca has a big job on his hands in his first role in management in England.

The 43-year-old Italian took over at the King Power Stadium last month having spent time working as one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants at Manchester City.

Former City and Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero has joined him as assistant manager.

What’s the squad like? Unsurprisingly, England internationals James Maddison and Harvey Barnes have moved on, with the former joining Tottenham Hotspur and the latter Newcastle United.

Aside from that duo and Youri Tielemans, who has joined Aston Villa on a free, there have not been too many departures from a squad that really should have had enough to stay in the top flight last season.

Of those still there it will be interesting to see how veteran striker Jamie Vardy, 36, gets on in his first season back at this level since helping the Foxes to promotion in 2013-14, and whether fellow forwards Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho can put together consistent campaigns.

Defender Conor Coady has come in from Wolves and will bring vital leadership qualities, although he looks set to miss the start of the season with an injury, while midfielder Harry Winks has joined from Spurs with a point to prove after a few difficult years.

How will they fare?

Former Leicester City winger and Foxes summariser for BBC Radio Leicester Matt Piper

Coady’s probably the only natural leader that I see in this squad at the minute. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall could become that but he isn’t yet. So [Coady’s] injury is a huge blow – there’s no getting around it.

With Maresca’s philosophy and style of play, we’re going to have to accept that they are going to make mistakes at times.

It is going to take time to evolve the way he wants to play and make sure that is transmitted to the players. Coady, Winks and Vardy have said some really positive things about him, so I’m confident in the manager.

Leeds United

What happened? It all started so well, as the Whites took seven points from their first three matches. Thereafter though? Not so good.

Jesse Marsch was sacked in February, a few months after most fans thought his time should have been up, and former Watford boss Javi Gracia was eventually brought in.

The Spaniard won three of his first six league games to move them away from the relegation zone, but five of the subsequent six ended in defeat and he was sacked with four matches of the season remaining.

Sam Allardyce was brought in to try and save them but Leeds managed just one point in that time, going down with a whimper in a final day 4-1 home shellacking by Tottenham.

Who’s in charge? Unlike Leicester, Leeds have gone down the tried and tested route with their new boss.

Daniel Farke has managed three seasons in the Championship and won the title in two of them.

The German arrives at Elland Road after a spell in his homeland with Borussia Monchengladbach and will hope he can repeat the successes he enjoyed with Norwich City.

Off the pitch, 49ers Enterprises – the investment arm of NFL side the San Francisco 49ers – completed a £170m takeover of the club in June having purchased Andrea Radrizzani’s shares.

Leeds United boss Daniel Farke
Daniel Farke is looking to win promotion from the Championship for the third time, having led Norwich to the second tier title on two occasions

What’s the squad like? The list of departures from Elland Road this summer has been lengthy.

Spain forward Rodrigo has been sold to Al Rayyan in Qatar, while midfielders Marc Roca and Brenden Aaronson plus defenders Robin Koch, Rasmus Kristianssen and Max Wober have all left the club on loan, although it seems unlikely any will wear a Leeds jersey again.

The ins so far have been pretty thin on the ground, with Wales international defender Ethan Ampadu and Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow the only ones who are likely to feature in the first XI.

That means extra pressure on striker Patrick Bamford to stay fit, while talented forwards Luis Sinisterra, Wilfried Gnonto and Dan James should be a class above for this level.

There’s no doubt that they could and indeed should add to their squad before the window closes on 1 September.

How will they fare?

BBC Radio Leeds sports editor Jonny Buchan

Promotion back to the Premier League is the aim and expectation, but not everyone is convinced that is possible just yet.

One of the most exciting prospects for the season ahead is the rise of midfielder Archie Gray, great-nephew to club legend Eddie Gray. The 17-year-old has featured heavily in pre-season and will be an exciting watch in the Championship.

There is a lot of attacking threat out wide but the final game of the summer schedule saw both Bamford and Georginio Rutter pick up injuries which threaten to keep them out of the season opener against Cardiff City.

Many feel another striker is a must if the Whites are to be title contenders.


What happened? Well, Southampton finished bottom, so you know it wasn’t anything good.

The Saints started the season with Ralph Hassenhuttl in charge but the Austrian’s four-year spell was brought to an end after a 4-1 home reverse by Newcastle in November.

Nathan Jones then brought his excellent record in two spells with Luton with him but lost nine of his 14 games in charge and was shown the door after three turbulent months at the helm.

Assistant Ruben Selles got the job until the end of the campaign and started with a 1-0 win at Chelsea. That was as good as it got, though, as Saints failed to win any of their final 13 games and relegation was confirmed with three matches to play.

Who’s in charge? Russell Martin arrived at St Mary’s last month after two seasons with Swansea City.

The former Norwich City skipper has built a reputation for playing good football and he has said he wants to see his side “dominate every aspect of the game”.

Southampton boss Russell Martin
Russell Martin led Swansea to finishes of 15th and 10th in his two seasons in charge

What’s the squad like? Skipper James Ward-Prowse’s departure seemed inevitable from the moment their relegation was confirmed but, as it stands, he’s still at St. Mary’s.

There’s a good chance that changes before the window closes, which is also the case for Liverpool target Romeo Lavia.

Strikers Che Adams and Adam Armstrong have stellar recent records in this league and should cause problems for most defences if they remain with the club.

Northern Ireland international midfielder Shea Charles has arrived for big money from Manchester City and there will be a lot of pressure on him to hit the ground running should Ward-Prowse and Lavia both leave.

How will they fare?

BBC Radio Solent sports editor Adam Blackmore

It’s hard not to think of Saints as in anything but a state of flux.

It’s not the club’s fault, it’s the nature of the beast when you’re relegated from the Premier League – your squad is too big, some players will be sold, and you’ve got four weeks left of the transfer window after the season starts.

So Russell Martin, who’s made a big impression with players and staff since arriving at St Mary’s, doesn’t really know how his squad will look yet, and how competitive they’ll be. But the club’s ambition is to go straight back up to the Premier League, and I think he’ll be given the budget to achieve that by the owners.

Whatever happens, I think Saints will be competitive at the right end of the Championship. As with football in any division, the rest will come down to small margins and a bit of luck.

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