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The Relegation of Leicester City Football Club - Where Do We Go From Here?

In Which I (almost) Avoid Parcelling Out Blame

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Following what might be the most glorious seven-year bender in the history of modern football, Leicester City have awakened to find themselves in the League Championship, in financial trouble, with more gaps than players in the active roster, and one heck of a hangover.

I’ve spent the last two weeks doing a post-mortem in my head, but let’s be clear here: We missed safety by two points. There are a number of decisions. of calls that could have gone the other way, of penalties missed or made, that could have swung the balance. When the margin is this fine, you can point to a hundred different moments and all of them would be correct.

Taking a wider view, it shouldn’t have come to that. The club, the manager, and the players all should have been too good for it to have come down to needing a result at Goodison Park to survive. The season was already a failure. It would have been amazing to escape the drop, but that would have glossed over huge systemic issues just and flattered the club as surely as the previous campaign’s 8th place did.

Leicester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
If forced to pick one thing, the refusal to play our best defender when we were leaking goals would probably be at the top of my list of “reasons for relegation.”
Photo by James Holyoak/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

So take a moment to feel the sadness, the disappointment, and the anger. Now let all of that go, as we’ve got work to do.

When play resumes, the Leicester City Football Club we’ll be seeing will be a very different one than the one we’ve supported for the last four years. Presumably, there will be a new manager (unless Dean Smith gets the job, in which case we’ll have a sort-of-new manager). There will be a painful exodus from the King Power, fueled by the need to cut wages, raise cash, poor contract management, and the fact that some of our players are, in spite of evidence to the contrary, too good to be playing in the Championship.

Cutting wages and building a war chest will probably be job one, taking place in parallel with the search for a manager. The thinking is that any incoming manager will want to know which players will be available and what they’ll be able to spend in the transfer market.

So, let’s talk about wages for a moment. Last year, Burnley won promotion without any player making more than £40,000 per week and a total weekly wage bill of £455,923. The Foxes’ wage bill, based on current salaries will be £1,179,000 per week, with 13 players making more than £40,000 per week. This is...not great. Yes, we have the parachute payment, but so did Burnley. To my untrained eye, it looks like we’re going to need to cut our wage bill by at least 50% next year.

Here’s the list of top earnings going into next season (expressed as weekly salaries):

Jamie Vardy: £140,000
James Maddison: £110,000
Kelechi Iheanacho: £80,000
Ricardo Pereira: £80,000
Boubakary Soumare: £80,000
Patson Daka: £75,000
Wilfred Ndidi: £75,000
Dennis Praet: £75,000
Jannik Vestergaard: £70,000
Timothy Castagne: £65,000

Wages courtesy of

Those ten add up to £850,000 per week, so this group is obviously where most of the cuts will have to come from. Madders, Ricardo, and Castagne are strongly linked with moves away from the King Power already. Ndidi, Praet, and Vestergaard will almost certainly leave if the club can engineer the moves.

One thing I haven’t included here because I have no way of knowing is: Which contracts have relegation clauses, and what do they include? It’s not uncommon to have clauses that include automatic salary adjustments and/or release clauses if the club is relegated. Some of the players likely have such a clause, be we don’t know who or what it entails.

Now we get to the ugly part: The strikers. As much fun as it would be to see a front line of Vardy, Iheanacho, and Daka terrorize the Championship, it is exceedingly unlikely that we will be paying £315,000/week to three strikers. It would be lovely if all three would play for £40,000 next season, but that’s just not going to happen. The most likely scenario is that all three depart. Yes, even Jamie Vardy. Relegation is terrible.

Leicester City v Everton FC - Premier League
Who will be left to do whatever Jamie is doing to the corner flag?
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The biggest question we’re likely to face is “Will we keep Harvey Barnes?” His current salary is reasonable and he would be a magnificent player to build a team around. On the other hand, he would command a fierce transfer fee and he desperately wants to be part of the England picture. The answer to this question will determine the shape of the Leicester City rebuild more than any other single decision except for...

Who Will Manage The Foxes in 2023/24?

I have absolutely no clue. And, let’s be clear here: I don’t know the right answer. The manager needs to have a plan for how the squad will play; they need to be on the same page as the recruitment team and the rest of the office; they need to operate within the club’s budget, and they need to get along with the players they’re given. Oh, and they need the tactical know-how to execute their plan.

That’s a long list of requirements and it’s easier to strike potential managers from the list than it is to pick the right one. We’ve been linked to Steven Gerrard, Carl Hoefkens, Scott Parker, Enzo Maresca, Kieran McKenna, and, of course, Dean Smith. I’d be lying if I told you which was the “right” pick for the job; there are too many variables and too much that takes place behind the scenes to have a definitive answer.

That said, I love the idea of Maresca coming here and being given the leeway to make this a long-term project as opposed to just trying to bounce straight back up. Arteta has done reasonably well at Arsenal and a chance to get the man standing next to the man who just won the treble is awfully enticing.

Manchester City Training Session
Enzo’s the one on the left. He looks like he’s trying to be Pep’s stunt double, eh?
Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

On the other hand, Maresca probably has the least-impressive resume of the candidates. Gerrard won at Rangers, Hoefkens took Bruges to the knockout stages of the Champions League, McKenna’s Ipswich defied the odds to win promotion to the Championship, and both Smith and Parker have EPL promotions under their belt.

Trying to guess the best choice from my vantage point is little better than tossing darts blindfolded (and I’m useless at darts with two working eyes). There are good reasons, on paper at least, to hire any of them. The best candidate will be the one that fits our club’s structure, staff, and ambitions and it will be up to the front office to sort that out.

But do we trust the folks upstairs?

Maybe? This is the opportunity to earn the trust. Over the last twelve months, the Foxes' playing staff, management, recruitment, and front office have been pulling in different directions and the results were disastrous. The job now is to get everyone on the same page, with the same goals, and a clear understanding of the resources available. Anything less will mean another wasted year.

It’s going to be head of recruitment Martyn Glover’s time to shine. I felt he had a solid January, even if all three of the new recruits fell off at the end. Harry Souttar and Victor Kristiansen should shine at this level and neither of them is on exorbitant contracts. Glover’s record at Southampton was impressive. Cross your fingers, but this should be the one role we don’t have to worry about.

As for the rest of ‘em? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better, if I’m being honest. I don’t have the tools or the knowledge to judge an organization’s leadership. They certainly bear their share of the blame for last season’s failures, but exactly where that blame lies is trickier to place than you might think.

At the risk of boring you all with old war stories, I spent some time working with front offices in other sports’s a lot. The scouting department is very seldom in full agreement about anything. The owners often have favourite players who are untouchable or want to bring in players that may not make sense to the overall structure of the club. The person in what is the equivalent of Jon Rudkin’s position has far less leeway, far less money to spend, and far more conflicting inputs than are apparent from the outside.

So, At The End of the Day, What’s In Store For Leicester City Next Season?

We’d all rather be in the Premiership, but we’re not. That’s disappointing, but this is an opportunity to reset the club. This is a chance to see some players who are playing for the shirt and maybe not so much for their next step up the ladder. If you ever saw David Nugent or Steve Howard or Lloyd Dyer or Andy King play, you know what I’m talking about.

We’ll get to see a new style of football. I can only speak for myself, but I found the tactic of “pass the ball around from side to side until we turn the ball over and our opponents score on the break” very uninspiring to watch. We relied entirely too much on James Maddison producing something out of nothing, and with his departure all but assured, maybe we’ll see something a little more exciting: Producing something out of something.

We’re going to get to see some really superior football grounds. I know, I know, that’s no substitute for away days at Old Trafford and Anfield, but Deepdale, the Hawthorns, The Den, Ewood Park, St. Andrews, and Portman Road are all fantastic venues. It’s a chance to renew some old rivalries as well, with Coventry City being a club I’m looking especially towards putting to the sword a couple of times.

We’ll also get to face former City stars Gary Rowett and Mark Robins as managers of Millwall and, um, Coventry respectively. Of course, the big reunion will be when Bristol City visit the King Power with Nigel Pearson at the helm. Personally, I have friends who support Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, and Sunderland. Match days are always more fun when you can get some banter going with your mates.

Huddersfield Town v Bristol City: Sky Bet Championship
Please someone ask him about ostriches.
Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

I’m not trying to put lipstick on a pig: This club had no business being relegated and it’s a disgrace that we were. But, we were relegated and there’s no pretending otherwise. This season is an opportunity for the club to rebuild itself, fix the finances, get a plan in place, and start the long journey back to the top. If you’re not excited by that, you’re probably supporting the wrong club. This is the fourth relegation I’ve endured as a City supporter and it may not be the last. We’ve come back every single time.

Foxes. Never. Quit.