'The players did not force Claudio Ranieri out of Leicester' - Interim boss Craig Shakespeare
Leicester caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare has rejected any claims sacked boss Claudio Ranieri had lost the dressing room.
The 53-year-old also revealed he was shocked Ranieri was axed, having been told just 10 minutes before the news was made public on Thursday night.
Leicester are a point above the Premier League relegation zone after losing their last five games, having won the title by 10 points last season.
Reports had suggested some players had spoken to the club's Thai owners to voice their concerns over Ranieri's reign but Shakespeare dismissed rumours of unrest.
"I'm not aware of any senior players going to the owners so that's news to me," he said. "What I would say, there was a lot of frustration because of results but he hadn't lost the dressing room," he said.
"Players have a voice, we have a good group of players who are tactically aware. You listen to the players but it's the manager who makes the final call.
"From a football point of view I have to tell you that the players are very professional. They are very hurt and very frustrated.
"I've not had one problem with them on the training field. They are very diligent and professional. They will be very disappointed, like everybody else, that the manager has lost his job."
The Foxes flew back following the 2-1 Champions League defeat at Sevilla on Thursday, and Ranieri was told he was fired by director of football Jon Rudkin when they landed.
Shakespeare admitted no-one, including Ranieri, saw the decision coming and also insisted his relationship with the former manager had not soured.
He said: "We flew back from Seville, I arrived home and had a call, just before the news broke, from the director of football Jon Rudkin to tell me what was happening, asking me to take care of the next game.
"A lot of it has been speculation, with no foundation. My relationship with Claudio has been perfectly fine all the way along. I have never had a problem with him, he has never had a problem with me. I spoke to him after the news broke and he thanked me for my support.
"He seemed fine, a bit shocked but his tone was no different. He was very level headed in terms of 'that's football'. Most of the conversation will stay private but his tone was fine."
Shakespeare is due to be in charge for Monday's Premier League visit of Liverpool with Leicester still searching for their first top flight goal of 2017.
They have not won in the league since Boxing Day and, when asked if he wanted the job to save the champions from relegation, Shakespeare was bullish in his reply.
He said: "Do I think I can do the job? Yes. Does it phase me? No. But again, the focus is just on Monday night."
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini, the favourite to replace Ranieri, has expressed his sympathy for his compatriot following his sacking.
The former Manchester City manager, who had a short spell as a player with the Foxes in 2001 and is available after leaving Inter Milan last year, is the favourite to replace Ranieri on a permanent basis.
Mancini said on Twitter: "I am sorry for my friend #Ranieri. He will remain in the history of @LCFC, in the heart of #Leicester fans and all football lovers."
Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has also urged angry fans to respect the decision to dispense with Ranieri and hinted at serious problems behind the scenes at the club.
The Thai businessman said the Foxes had "millions" of things to sort out if they were to "survive", describing the situation they were in as a crisis.
In his statement on Instagram in broken English, which was published on the BBC Leicester Sport Twitter account, Srivaddhanaprabha said: "Thank you to our followers who understand and still support me in any circumstances. What you have seen is only some sides of the club which we can show to the public.
"We have done our best as a management. We do not have only one problem to solve, but there are millions thing to do to make our club survive.
"I would like to take this crisis situation to thank you all fans, and at the same time I do understand you. I really appreciate for the fans who still (have) love and understanding. And also thanks for the ones who keep complaining to me and the management team. I do understand you too.
"Please respect my decision. I will never let the club down."