Shakespeare applauds the crowd; credits Getty Images
As auditions go this one was flawless.
As the understudy suddenly thrust into the lead role, the question is how to give the audience what they are accustomed to, albeit with your own influence and ideas.
Play to your strengths, give the audience what they want and keep it simple, and with those three basics, Craig Shakespeare had the watching public in the palm of his hand.
Shakey not stirred
I have known Craig or ‘Shakey’ for a few years now, since we first met on The FA UEFA Pro Licence, and we hit it off immediately.
He is warm, funny, engaging company, all human qualities associated with being a great number two.
I have to admit I didn’t see him as a number one, as I thought he was happy in his role, although his public statement that he feels ready and capable for the job shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider his background.
He has vast experience of being part of a management team preparing teams for years, with incredible success, whilst he was key in helping Claudio Ranieri settle into the Leicester hot seat.
Shakespeare and Ranieri in discussion at Stoke; credits Getty Images
When two become one
Often, assistant managers do so much behind the scenes, they are very close to being the main man anyway, albeit often on a vastly reduced wage and with little recognition for all the work that goes in.
All of which often goes unnoticed, suddenly now is noted, and you can understand why so many assistant managers fancy a crack at management.
Paul Clement springs to mind. He was an assistant for a significant period before taking the reigns at Derby.
After being sacked, he then returned to being an assistant, before recently taking up the managers role at Swansea.
Mike Phelan is another. I did a management course with Mike and it soon became apparent during the time we spent together, that he also wished to be a manager, therefore it came as no surprise when he eventually got his chance at Hull City.
Some assistant managers find the limelight too much, Marco Van Basten one such example, although I have the feeling Shakespeare is in this for the long haul.
If he doesn’t get the role he wants, the question will be, what does he do next?
I doubt he will be able to revert back to being an assistant at Leicester, and now his intentions are known, I feel he may look elsewhere to satisfy that craving to be a manager.
That is why he can only focus on the next game, as another win will strengthen his claims, and that is Hull City at home on Saturday.
Leicester to tame the Tigers
As understudy, one magnificent performance is fantastic.
The challenge is to do it again to prove it was no fluke, and only then may you be given the lead role.
I feel the victory over Liverpool was not luck and believe the pundits who sought to take the credit away from Craig, were a little discourteous.
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville felt that Shakespeare couldn’t have got that much out of the players in the two-day period before the game.
— Sky Sports MNF ⚽️ (@SkySportsMNF) February 27, 2017
They said it was just the fact the players decided to perform.
I completely disagree.
Matches can be won or lost in the 15 minute half time period with what the manager says, the tactics chosen, the substitutes made and so on, never mind the 48 hours Craig had to prepare his team.
The lack of possession, the high shot ratio, the record sprints from Jamie Vardy, I could go on, were all down to how Craig prepared his team and the instructions given that were carried out perfectly.
He went back to how Leicester became champions.
There was no diamond shape as Leicester deployed with disastrous consequences against Southampton, just a simplicity to their game in their favoured 442 shape, with one striker high and one slightly withdraw to add numbers in midfield when needed.
Playing deep, on the counter and with a massive amount of hard work and honesty, allied to some fantastic footballers who were on their game, everything clicked.
At every opportunity Leicester sought to put the fragile Liverpool defence under pressure with penetrating passes, long throw ins and direct play.
The selection of midfielder Lucas Leiva at centre back played right into the Foxes hands and they were too cunning for Jurgen Klopp’s men, exposing the spaces left between and behind the Liverpool defence.
Hull won’t be so naïve and will provide a completely different test, although they are struggling with injuries at the back and up front.
Leicester will have more of the ball, with less space to attack in behind, however, for Shakespeare, it provides him with the chance to seal the lead role.
I feel Leicester will emerge victorious and he will have the crowd in raptures once more.