To keep, or not to keep. That was the question. Whether ‘twas nobler in the mind of Leicester City’s board to suffer under a popular but mediocre manager just because his presence and style called to mind the glory days of a yore, or if the club should shit-can him in an effort to hopefully live up to their potential, and in doing so risk everything: to die (via relegation), to compete no more (in the Premier League). Leicester’s answer was to say to hell with all that poetic bullshit and just sack the guy.
Thus Craig Shakespeare has been officially fired today. The Englishman had become a popular figure during his long tenure at Leicester. He arrived to town as Nigel Pearson’s assistant in 2008, taking a brief respite via Hull for one season, then returning with Pearson in 2011. Shakespeare had remained at the club since that second stint alongside Pearson, lasting through the racist sex-tape orgy that cost his boss his job, and eventually landing a spot on Claudio Ranieri’s staff.
Leicester followed up their miraculous Premier League title campaign with an awful start to last season, playing so poorly that the club saw fit to fire Ranieri before the season was even over. After making that move, the club’s leadership decided to hand the reins over to Shakespeare on an interim basis. The Foxes’ fortunes turned upward during the back half of last season after he took over, and so the club gave him the permanent job before the year was out. That has proven to be a hasty decision.
Shakespeare was by all accounts well-liked by the team’s players, had a deep familiarity with all levels of the club, and didn’t stray too far tactically from the philosophy that won the team the title a couple years ago. These were the main reasons justifying the club giving him, an otherwise unremarkable coach, the manager job. However, because of his lack of experimentation and preference for sticking with the simple, unadventurous playing style that had worked before but wasn’t really working anymore, Leicester haven’t played up to their ability for a long while now. The choice to get rid of him now, with the Foxes currently mired in the relegation places, is probably the right one, even if this goodbye, like all partings, is a sweet sorrow.
Although things haven’t gone particularly well for Leicester since they won the league, this team should still have plenty to offer. Where they’ve failed on the pitch and in selecting managers, the team still has done pretty well in the transfer market. Leicester have to this point still managed to keep hold of the two big stars from that title-winning group, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, and the additions of players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Harry Maguire, Wilfred Ndidi, and Adrien Silva (once FIFA lets him play) should form the backbone of a very solid upper-midtable team for years to come. Somebody had to pay for the team failing to reach that upper-midtable level, though, and Shakespeare—as well-liked and respected as he was—wound up being the one. Alas, poor Craig. A fellow of infinite crosses.