Leeds United and Southampton strangely unified in preparation for Premier League ahead of Wembley play-off

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Whether it proves to be Leeds United or Southampton, the winner of this season's Championship play-off final is likely to have a head-start preparing for 2024/25 in the Premier League compared with Leicester City and Ipswich Town, despite the two already-promoted teams sealing their fate earlier this month.

The Premier League's 2023/24 campaign drew to a close over the weekend as Manchester City were crowned champions for a record fourth straight year. No sooner had Pep Guardiola lit up a cigar, David Moyes was waving goodbye to the London Stadium while Jurgen Klopp pre-emptively announced the arrival of Arne Slot at his Anfield farewell. Then, news broke of Brighton and Hove Albion's mutual separation with head coach Roberto De Zerbi. Less than three days after the season's end, a fourth top flight manager had gone, Mauricio Pochettino leaving his post at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United could yet part company with Erik ten Hag following Saturday's FA Cup Final, too.

Whilst not linked with the vacant position at West Ham United, it was little surprise to see the likes of Leicester boss Enzo Maresca and Kieran McKenna be named among the shortlist of potential successors at Brighton, Manchester United and Chelsea - in McKenna's case, for all three. The Seagulls are keen to make McKenna their new coach after back-to-back promotions with the Tractor Boys while Maresca remains a target for Chelsea having led the Foxes back to the promised land at the first attempt with a style of play supposedly attractive to the Blues' higher-ups. McKenna's links to Old Trafford, where he was previously an academy and then first-team coach, coupled with the timing of the club's eighth place finish and Ipswich's ascent through the leagues, meant the Northern Irishman has emerged as a genuine candidate for the new INEOS-led hierarchy in Manchester.

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This weekend, Leeds and Southampton will do battle to decide who joins Maresca, McKenna, Leicester and Ipswich in the top flight, although there is no guarantee either man will be in situ at their current employer come the opening day in August.

On one hand, Leeds' participation in the play-offs puts them at a disadvantage compared to the 19 other Premier League clubs they hope to rival next season. While other teams can begin planning, make recruitment decisions and establish budgets, Leeds and their opponents this weekend are forced to wait additional weeks to discover which league they will compete in next term.

For Leicester and Ipswich, though, this summer could drag, particularly if their highly-rated, sought-after head coaches find themselves embroiled in a tug-of-war between established Premier League sides and the teams with whom they won promotion.

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Speak to people in recruitment and they will tell you, squad planning for a campaign without knowing who the manager could be, in any division never mind the top flight of English football, is a thankless, often wasteful task. For which manager, taking into account which style of play shall we recruit? Will manager A chime with the personality of new signing B?

Popular thinking around summer recruitment is that there must be alignment between those bringing potential signings to the manager's door and the coach himself. When there is a giant question mark on the manager's office as opposed to a neatly printed name, the task of assembling a squad - and even negotiating contracts with existing players - becomes a great deal more difficult. That's without even taking into consideration that should Maresca and McKenna leave their posts for pastures greener, redder or bluer, would they not hope to poach their most trusted players and staff, too?

Leeds have no such worry should they be promoted; Daniel Farke has spoken at length about his desire to build and develop the club and is known to have a strong relationship with those in the directors' box at Elland Road. The German signed a long-term contract last summer, expressing his desire to have another crack at the Premier League, only this time with the backing of 49ers Enterprises, whose financial clout dwarfs the resources he was able to work with at Carrow Road during his previous one-and-a-half top flight campaigns.

Russell Martin has taken a similar line at St. Mary's Stadium as well as an impromptu role as a boardroom go-between following Jason Wilcox's departure as director of football. After the final game of the regular season, Martin was asked whether he knew the plan of attack in appointing a replacement, to which he responded suggesting a new structure may come into place this summer, but with himself very much in the picture.

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From Sunday onwards, planning can begin and preparations will be made whatever the outcome. Until then, anything which takes place beyond May 26, remains on hold. For those in the East Midlands, where Leicester may soon find themselves manager-less, beginning 2024/25 with a points deduction, and Suffolk, the coming weeks might feel a lot like being on pause.

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