‘Pantomime villain’ takes stage at Leicester after Claudio Ranieri sacking

Leicester caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare admitted he felt like the “pantomime villain” after Claudio Ranieri’s sacking.

The 53-year-old is in charge of the struggling champions after Ranieri’s shock dismissal on Thursday with the Foxes a point above the relegation zone.

They have lost their last five Premier League games and are yet to score in the top flight this year ahead of Monday’s visit of Liverpool.

And, having been asked to face the media after the dismissal of the popular Ranieri, Shakespeare joked about the position he found himself in when questioned about the timing of the decision.

“That’s a question for the owners and the club. I’ve been asked to come along this afternoon and I feel a bit like a pantomime villain sitting here,” he 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.

“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.”

Leicester’s turbulent season also took another turn when they arrived back from their 2-1 Champions League last 16 defeat to Sevilla but were

caught up in Storm Doris, and were

unable to access their baggage, barely allowing Shakespeare time to get home before he was asked to take charge.

“We got back to East Midlands and we had problems with the hold luggage so we weren’t able to open the hold,” he said.

“We had to wait at a local hotel and by the time I’d got home I received a phone call maybe 10 minutes before the news broke from the director of football, Jon (Rudkin), asking me to take caretaker charge.”

And he dismissed suggestions the players had been distracted following new big-money contracts and the award of sports cars by the owners following their title win last year.

“It’s always a Catch-22 situation. If you don’t reward them, people would go other places. We would have lost very good players. So the club itself was in a Catch-22 situation,” said Shakespeare.

Ranieri issued an emotional farewell statement (above) yesterday. Shakespeare had worked with the Italian since he was appointed manager at the King Power Stadium in 2015 and admitted his exit was a sad day for the sport.

He added: “Yes football has gone this way a bit. You don’t get much time nowadays, and this is somebody who has won the league”

Shakespeare also rejected the implication that Ranieri had lost the Leicester player.

Reports suggested some players had spoken to the club’s Thai owners to voice their concerns over Ranieri’s reign.

“I’m not aware of any senior players going to the owners so that’s news to me,” he said. “What I would say, there was a lot of frustration because of results but he hadn’t lost the dressing room.

“Players have a voice, we have a good group of players who are tactically aware. You listen to the players but it’s the manager who makes the final call.

“From a football point of view, I have to tell you that the players are very professional. They are very hurt and very frustrated.

“I’ve not had one problem with them. They are very diligent and professional. They will be very disappointed, like everybody else, that the manager has lost his job.”

When asked if he wanted the job to save the champions from relegation, Shakespeare was bullish in his reply.

He said: “Do I think I can do the job? Yes. Does it faze me? No. But again, the focus is just on Monday night.”



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