Leicester caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare claims he feels like a pantomime villain after taking over following the shock sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Shakespeare is in temporary charge and will pick the team for Monday’s crucial meeting with Liverpool after Ranieri was sacked on Thursday just nine months on from leading the club to the Premier League title.
Ranieri’s former assistant admitted he felt uncomfortable when he appeared before the media on Friday and fielded a question on the timing of the Italian’s dismissal, amid claims of a revolt from senior players and a breakdown in his own relationship with his former boss. “That’s a question for the owners and the club,” he said. “I’ve been asked to come along this afternoon and I feel a bit like a pantomime villain sitting here. But I’ve got to answer your questions. My focus is definitely on the Liverpool game. With regard to the timing of it, I have to respect the owners’ decisions.”
Asked about his claim that he feels like a villain, Shakespeare said: “I can do nothing about that. I have to be myself. I have worked with some very good managers but I would say I am determined to stay the same. I want to be myself because I think people read into that and I think you have to do that in football.”
Ranieri returned to Leicester’s training ground on Friday afternoon to collect his belongings while the players accused of turning against him took a day off ahead of Monday’s game. But Shakespeare is open to the idea of Ranieri making another visit to say his goodbyes to former colleagues, with whom he delivered the Premier League’s most unlikely title triumph last season. “Personally I wouldn’t have any problems with it and I am sure the club wouldn’t,” he said.
Whether Ranieri would opt to speak to his former charges is debatable, however, with the 65-year-old thought to feel let down by some members of his title-winning side, who are just a point and a place above the relegation zone.
Shakespeare was also left facing questions about the rewards of last season, including lucrative new contracts and expensive club cars, that were given to many key members of the squad and backroom staff.
That has led to accusations from some fans that players’ hunger has been blunted by the trappings of success. “It’s always a Catch 22 situation,” said Shakespeare, who said suggestions that senior players had complained to the club about Ranieri’s methods was “news to me”. “If you don’t reward them, people would go to other places. We would have lost very good players. So the club itself was in a Catch 22 situation. Nowadays we look at the other clubs and the money they’ve spent, and I’m sure we’re not on the budget of some of them.
“But you know what, we deserved to win the league last year. We won it by 10 points in the end. On the training pitch, their focus has been very good, very professional. It’s a joy to work with them at times.”