“Jones & Burton” by Jon Candy (CC BY-SA 2.0). Colours adjusted from the original.

Last month, Leicester and the footballing world were left shocked at the dismissal of manager Claudio Ranieri – the man who cemented his place as a club legend following the Foxes’ incredible Premier League-winning campaign last term.j

In a statement issued to reporters the day after his sacking, the 65-year-old Italian said: “Yesterday, my dream died. After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always. Sadly this was not to be.”

As one man’s dream was unceremoniously cut short, however, another’s began. Despite more established names including Mark Warburton, Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink – and even Muzzy Izzet – being the favourites of football betting sites including bet365 to step into Ranieri’s shoes, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the board ultimately opted to reward caretaker boss Craig Shakespeare with the role until the end of the season.

Shakespeare is already known – at least by name – to the majority of Leicester fans, having served as assistant under both Nigel Pearson and Ranieri between 2008 and 2017 (with a short spell at Hull City sandwiched in the middle). Under his watch so far, the Foxes have managed to put together successive victories over Liverpool and Hull, with the boss being praised for the ‘back to basics’ approach he appears to have instilled in his players.

Leicester City - Champions

“Leicester City – Champions” by Phil McIver (CC BY 2.0).

Although his future beyond of the season is currently unknown, Shakespeare faces an uphill battle over the next couple of months in what is his first senior management appointment: with 11 games remaining, LCFC lie 15th in the Premier League table – only five points above the relegation zone.

So who is Craig Shakespeare, and could he take over from Ranieri as the latest fans’ favourite?

Shakespeare began his playing career in 1981 with Walsall, and made over 350 appearances for the club in all competitions as an attacking midfielder. After helping the Saddlers achieve promotion to the old Division Two in 1988, he was snapped up the next season by Division One’s Sheffield Wednesday, for what was at the time an impressive £300,000 transfer fee.

The Birmingham native moved closer to home to join West Brom in 1990, where he stayed for three years before eventually seeing out his career with spells at Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Telford.

After his playing days were over, Shakespeare rejoined West Brom as a football in the community officer in 1999, before being promoted over the years to academy coach, reserve coach, and eventually – for a single winning game in 2006 – to caretaker boss.

Premier League Champions Leicester City

“Premier League Champions Leicester City” by Peter Woodentop (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Shakespeare’s unlikely rise through the ranks did not go unnoticed by former Foxes manager Nigel Pearson, who he had played with at Wednesday and worked with at West Brom. Pearson brought Shakespeare into LCFC for the first time as his assistant in 2008; the pair subsequently left the Foxes in 2010 to join Hull before returning a year later in 2011.

Ranieri rated Shakespeare highly enough to retain his services when he replaced Pearson in 2015, and in addition to being involved in the historic title-winning season last year, Shakespeare was also offered a role on the England coaching staff under Sam Allardyce. As fate would have it, however, big Sam resigned after just one game and Shakespeare left the set-up alongside the outgoing manager.

As a man who has spent the majority of his managerial career in the shadows, circumstance has now thrust Craig Shakespeare into the limelight. With two games and two impressive wins now under his belt, it seems he is already beginning to win favour with the Leicester faithful; indeed, during the 3-1 victory over Hull, the terraces erupted with chants of ‘There’s only one Craig Shakespeare’ and ‘Sign him up!’

The board duly obliged the fans’ request, and the man who started his back office career as a community manager at West Brom now has just over two months to ensure the Foxes’ Premier League survival – and cement his own place in Leicester City history.