It is Keown who is out of order

Martin Keown this weekend claimed that interim Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare was “almost out of order” in wanting the job on a permanent basis. Martin Keown is wrong.

Leicester is unbeaten in the two games under Shakespeare, the former assistant to both Pearson and Ranieri. The Foxes put three goals past both Liverpool and Hull in a pair of stunning victories that have done wonders for their chances of staying in the top flight.  And yet, according to Keown, Craig Shakespeare is “out of order” and “not a big enough name” for the job. Keown hammers home his point by informing viewers and his bemused co-hosts that “they’re playing in the Champions league”.

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The idiocy of the comments from Martin Keown leaps out immediately as being contrary to the British media ideals of a manager. Shakespeare is a former assistant coach, knows the club well and is English. One would assume the media in Britain would be lining up to give him the job. 

The normal line trotted out by the likes of Keown tend to be, “why don’t young British managers get a look in at big jobs?” Just this morning Garry Richardson on Five Live was bemoaning the lack of chances for Shaun Dyche or Eddie Howe at a top 4 side. And here we have a British (albeit not especially young) manager, with some pedigree attempting to get a managerial job in the top flight. 

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The Case for Craig Shakespeare

Shakespeare, 53, had a professional playing career spanning roughly 20 years. Shakespeare has held coaching positions at top flight clubs, West Brom and Hull, and has been with Leicester for the best part of a decade. He is an established member of the Leicester City backroom staff and is obviously held in high regard, as he has outlasted two managers. So, Shakespeare has bags of experience, knows the club and the players well,  has got them playing attacking football in a system that works and is British. Shakespeare has also had experience in the England coaching set-up under manager Sam Allardyce.

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If Ryan Giggs or Tim Sherwood was in the post instead of Shakespeare the likes of Keown would be screaming for them to be appointed the manager, even though neither of them is nearly as qualified for this particular job. Ryan Giggs has about the same number of games managed as Shakespeare and was an assistant into Van Gaal in a poor United team for 2 seasons. Giggs has since been sacked by Mourinho and instead of taking a job down the divisions or as an assistant elsewhere has sat on a sofa and written for newspapers. Glad to see this inspiring young British manager taking the job hunt seriously. 

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The assertion that Leicester needs a manager who is “bigger and has more experience” is laughable. Craig Shakespeare is the perfect man to lead Leicester City forward at this point, at least to the end of the season. Bringing in a new man to the club at this late stage could completely backfire on their hopes of survival. Look for example at Palace, Swansea and Hull. All three sides brought in new men and have seen their fortunes barely change. Swansea and Palace especially struggled with new men in charge, forcing Swansea’s owners to sack Bob Bradley after just 3 months in charge. 

The solution for the Foxes looks ready made. Shakespeare offers a continuity to their championship winning success, a knowledge and assessment of the players based on years of experience with them. Shakespeare knows how Leicester want to play football and how best to pick and set a side to play in that spirit. He isn’t a big name, nor does he have top-flight experience, but look at the revolving door of managerial appointments and sackings. Ask yourself, would Steve Bruce or Pardew be any better for Leicester right now?

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The comments of Martin Keown are caught between two schools of British media thought when it comes to managerial appointments. If Shakespeare was 10 years younger, Keown would be jumping up and down Tom Cruise style on the Match of the Day sofa calling for him to get the job. On the other hand, Keown is calling for a big name with experience to be appointed because Leicester is playing in Europe for potentially 90 more minutes.

The question posed for Keown should be, how can young(relatively speaking) British managers not get experience if they’re not given chances, especially if they’re the best man for the job?

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