Southampton are set to play their first year in the Championship since the 2011-2012 season. There is a lot of cautious optimism surrounding St. Mary’s after the appointment of exciting manager Russell Martin.
However, care must be taken – a prolonged spell in England’s 2nd tier could signal years if not decades without Premier League football. One only has to look at the cautionary tales of Sunderland (relegated 2017, relegated again 2018, back to Championship 2022) and Portsmouth (relegated 2010, relegated again 2012, relegated again 2013, currently League One) to see that lower-tier spells can be disastrous.
With the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s take a look at the upcoming fixtures for the Saints.
2023-2024 Southampton Fixture List
The first months of the season will be key in Southampton’s quest to return to Premier League status. Last season’s automatic promotion teams Burnley and Sheffield United finished the season with 101 and 91 points respectively. That is an average across 46 games of 2.2 and 2.0 points per game. This means that the Saints do not have much room for error – every game in the Championship they should be targeting victory.
Zooming in on the first two months of the season – the schedule is as follows:
8/4/23 – Sheffield Wednesday (A), last season promoted from League One
8/12/23 – Norwich City (H), last season 13th
8/19/23 – Plymouth Argyle (A), last season promoted from League One
8/26/23 – Queen’s Park Rangers (H), last season 20th
9/2/23 – Sunderland (A), last season 6th
9/16/23 – Leicester City (H), last season relegated from Premier League
9/19/23 – Ipswich Town (H), last season promoted from League One
9/23/23 – Middlesbrough (A), last season 4th
9/30/23 – Leeds United (H), last season relegated from Premier League
In this stretch, Southampton plays all three teams arriving up from League One. The Saints will need to take advantage of the lower opposition, and if they can secure all nine points from the trio of Sheffield, Plymouth, and Ipswich they will build themselves a great foundation to earn an automatic promotion spot.
Southampton also open their season with two early matches against their Premier League relegation comrades. These teams figure to be promotion rivals throughout the season Moreover, both games will be at St. Mary’s. The Saints players will have to fix their dismal home form right away in these fixtures. Four points from these matches would be ideal.
Finally, the early months of the season also feature last season’s playoff teams Middlesbrough and Sunderland. Middlesbrough is in a bit of a renaissance recently under young manager Michael Carrick and features Championship top scorer Chuba Akpom (for now…he has been linked with several moves away).
Sunderland is similarly riding momentum after a strong season last season. If the Saints can send a message to the rest of the league and dispatch these promotion rivals, they can enter the long difficult stretches in the middle of the season with boatloads of confidence. If they falter early, they will have their work cut out for them as the season approaches its climactic ending.
Southampton finishes the season against Leeds United at Elland Road on International Star Wars Day May 4th. Circle this date on your calendars Saints fans, chances are Russell Martin’s men will go to Leeds needing a result, as Leeds are a fellow former Premiership side awash with money entering this 2nd tier season.
The force will have to be strong with Southampton and their fans – as Elland Road is one of the most difficult places to play in normal times, with potential promotion at stake it will become all the more hostile.
In the past decade-plus in the Premiership Southampton has played at Old Trafford, Wembley, the Emirates, the Ethiad, and even the San Siro. There have been incredible moments, devastating heartbreaks, and everything in between.
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Now we will find out if they can do it on a rainy night in Stoke. Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert are not walking through the door. The Saints players both new and retained from last season will have to hit the ground running right away, or else a long difficult slog through the 46-game championship season could be at hand.