Dundee caretaker manager James McPake says his only focus is on this weekend’s match with St Mirren and not on the vacant manager position following Jim McIntyre’s departure.
McIntyre was relieved of duty following Dundee’s relegation to the Scottish Championship and McPake has been placed in temporary charge of the first team. McPake has admitted that being back amongst first team football has given him back the feeling he has missed since retiring through injury.
“When you get asked to come into a job or do a job like this it is normally in a circumstance where someone has lost their job,” he said.
“That has probably been the negative side of it as such, but it has not been difficult at all.
“The lads have been great, they’ve made it easy for me.
“The challenge has been the work that we’ve been trying to do throughout the full week, it has been new to me.
“Obviously I have been taking the reserves and under 18s, but to come in and work in this environment for a week is great.
“I’ve got that little feeling in my belly again that I’ve missed from being involved in first team football.
“It has been a little while, so I’ve got that feeling back and it feels great to be back involved around first team players with a big game coming up at the weekend.”
Regarding his own ambitions for the job, McPake was playing down talk of his own candidacy and suggested that his focus is solely on the upcoming game against St Mirren.
“I love this football club,” he said.
“What it has done for me in almost five years that I’ve been here, I don’t know what I’d need to do to repay it.
“In terms of, first of all, signing me when I hadn’t played in six months at Hibs due to my second back surgery.
“Took a massive gamble on me to bring me here, I’m still here and a couple of years down the line I suffer another injury and they look after me the best possible way they could.
“I’ve said this on record, they went above and beyond what I could ask a football club to do for me and my family.
“Whether that was going to see whatever surgeon I wanted, getting me any treatment that I wanted.
“So, for me to even think about that this week I think would have been disrespectful to the football club and the fans.
“Obviously it goes through your head, but I genuinely mean it when I say that all I’ve thought about this week has been the St Mirren game.
“It has been hectic, as I say, it is a good hectic.
“I’ve been used to that side of football for years when I was in it in the lead up to a game.
“So, I’m just enjoying the moment and that’s what is getting me through the week and I can’t wait for Saturday.”
Senior Dundee player, and former teammate of McPake’s, Paul McGowan has publicly backed McPake for the job with backing coming from another ex-teammate in Graham Dorrans. McPake is grateful for the backing but doesn’t want it to distract from preparation for Saturday.
“I seen another one today that I got sent from Graham Dorrans as well that I didn’t know was happening,” he said.
“Look it is nice, of course it is anytime somebody writes or says something nice about you.
“Everybody wants that, but as I say, my complete focus is on St Mirren and this game on Saturday because it is a big game for our football club.”
McPake has been pleased with the mood amongst the players and wants to use that to repay the fans for the disappointment of relegation.
“The mood has been great,” he said.
“I said in an interview yesterday and I’m genuine when I say this, the players have been fantastic.
“It helps they got a win last week, it stopped the rot of the results, but my meeting with them at the start of the week was ‘look, we want to build on it, for this week we want to be positive, I want you to be positive, I want you to enjoy it and we want to go win a game at the weekend’.
“There are some hurting boys in that dressing room, of course there are.
“We know as a football club we’ve let the fans down, and let’s be honest the most important people at the football club are the fans, and it has not been good enough for them this season.
“They are hurting but we went in with a freshness to say: ‘let’s build on it this week’.
“Let’s give them something to go away and think over the summer that there is a bit of positivity there that we can come back next year and get off to a good start and get a good feeling back around about this football club.”
As reserve and under 18s manager, McPake has a great deal of insight into the young players coming through the ranks at Dens. He revealed that four players from the under 18s have been training with the first team this week and that they, like everyone else, is in his thoughts for Saturday.
“Everybody in the squad is in my thoughts,” he said.
“I said that to the players, I’ve no agenda.
“I’ve been lucky in a sense that I’ve not been involved because I’ve not been involved in any decision making over the season.
“So, I’ve not come in with any bias or anything at all to say: ‘oh, he has to play, he has to play whatever’.
“I’m going in with an open mind and look, these players have been bubbling away for a while now.
“What I can say is, and I can say this because I made the phone call in July or August to the SFA for Neil (McCann), that two of them were going to make their debuts as 15-year-olds if we could get special clearance from the league to play in the cup.
“They didn’t allow it and that was their choice, but these players have been bubbling away and this isn’t me coming in as the under 18s and reserve coach and going: ‘I’m going to bring all these players in’.
“These players deserve to be in the squad, no mistake about it.
“When you speak to first team players and they are raving about them, they know that those boys are at a level where certainly they can train.
“They’ve not been tested at first team level on the pitch, but they would have been as 15-year-olds if we could have.
“So, are in my thoughts?