Craig Shakespeare is on such a remarkable streak of results that on Friday he was being asked for his prediction for the Grand National.
Shakespeare is enjoying a comfortable ride in football management since replacing Claudio Ranieri, already writing his name into Premier League history, and will match Pep Guardiola if he secures his sixth successive league win, at Everton today.
The former No 2 to Nigel Pearson and Ranieri is on the brink of achieving his survival mission and in the box seat to be named Leicester City’s manager for next season, with talks scheduled for next month.
After spending the majority of his coaching career in the shadows, Shakespeare has grown into the role and is now under serious consideration to have his short-term contract extended by the Leicester hierarchy.
He first established his reputation working alongside Pearson, who was sacked amid great acrimony in June 2015, weeks after Leicester scrambled to safety. And ahead of the trip to Goodison Park, Shakespeare revealed he had been advised to take the job by Pearson if it is offered to him this summer.
“I’m not in regular contact because half the time Nigel is up a mountain or he’s on his bike somewhere in the hills and there’s no phone reception. But we’ve spoken a couple of times and he has told me to go for it,” he said.
“It would have felt awkward replacing him, if it had been straight after [the sacking]. But with the time frame and everything considered, I’m sure it didn’t feel awkward on both our parts.
“I think I can do the job and it doesn’t faze me. There’s different things to it, like do I think I’m better as an assistant than a first-team manager? Those are the questions that I ask myself. I try and make sure that I review my own performance as well as the players, and things I can do better.
“The contract is purely until the end of the season and any time the owners and the club want to speak, I’m there. If not, then we’ll sit down at the end of the season.”
Shakespeare’s excellent start is surely steering Leicester’s board away from appointing a bigger name. After Ranieri’s contentious departure in February, Leicester held talks with a number of managers including Roy Hodgson, Guus Hiddink, Michael O’Neill and Gary Rowett. But Shakespeare’s close bond with the dressing room has been crucial over the past three years and a number of players have already admitted they want him as permanent manager to ensure continuity.
There are clear signs of an impending appointment, with Shakespeare involved in discussions over player recruitment this summer. On Wednesday he will take the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Atlético Madrid, arguably the biggest game in the club’s 133-year history.
“If I said I wasn’t enjoying the job, you’d think I was a right strange one with the results that I’ve had,” he said. “I really don’t get carried away too much and I know that in the run we’ve been on there could easily have been a couple of defeats in there. Of course the start is much better than I expected but I’m quite comfortable and happy for whenever the club decides to sit down, that’s fine by me.”
Ranieri, meanwhile, will make his first television appearance in England since his dismissal on Sky Sports on Monday night. The 65-year-old will appear in the studio for the Crystal Palace v Arsenal game and sources claim there is no ‘gagging order’ following his shock exit.