Dundee’s new manager James McPake says “bring it on” as he is handed the reigns at the Dens Park club.
The former club captain has been elevated from his position as reserve and under 18s manager to first team manager on a rolling contract. Northern Ireland assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl is also joining as his assistant while former Scotland boss Gordon Strachan is also expected to join the club in an advisory capacity.
Speaking following his unveiling, McPake was understandably delighted to have been given the job after overseeing first team matters for the final game of the season.
“First and foremost, it is a huge honour to be the manager of this football club,” he said.
“I always wanted to be a coach and a manager, but to do it here it is probably a bit more special as well for me just because of my history with the club, how the fans have been with me and what we’ve been through together.
“I am delighted, and I can’t wait to get started.”
McPake has appointed the experienced Jimmy Nicholl as his assistant and he revealed that the 62-year-old was his choice and the only person he wanted to assist him as he embarks on his first job as a manager.
“He was the only person I spoke to,” revealed McPake.
“It was a bit difficult as obviously Jimmy was working with St Mirren up to the play-off game last Sunday, so I couldn’t really speak to him in regard to the job until that was all dealt with.
“I thank St Mirren as well because they have been a great help this week and getting Jimmy over the line was completely my choice.
“He is someone I know very well personally from working with him with Hibs and Northern Ireland, so he was the only person for me and if I couldn’t have got Jimmy then I don’t think I would have been in the position to take the job.
“And I mean that wholeheartedly, I was never going to just go out and look for any experience.
“I wanted Jimmy, I know the way Jimmy works and I wanted him to come in with me.”
The Dundee manager has a big rebuilding job following relegation with just five or six players contracted for the first team squad next season. Considering his knowledge of the younger players at the club, McPake sees it as entirely likely that the Dundee support could be seeing more young, homegrown players coming through at Dens.
“I said in the lead-up to the St Mirren game – and nothing has changed – if they are good enough and they can come in to the training session and handle that environment then of course they’ll be of great interest to me,” he said.
“I know them all very well, I’m not going to stand here and say they are ready to play 30 or 38 games a season.
“That’s not the case, they are young, and we need to be careful with them, but there is a good group there that I can’t wait to work with.
“That was a big thing for me as well that it has been a good journey that we’ve went on working with them and developing them so the next stage for them is to first team football.
“We hope it’s here and we will give them every chance for it to be here.”
One home reared player that McPake wants to have involved is Cammy Kerr whose contract is set to come to an end. The new gaffer is full of praise for the young full-back and is determined to have Kerr stay on at Dundee.
“100%, I don’t even need to word that any other way, shape or form,” he said.
“I want Cammy at this club, I know what this club means to Cammy, I know what the fans mean to Cammy as well and I know how hurt he was.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in terms of when you see people gutted in football, but he was devastated with the way last season ended.
— Grant McKenzie (@Grantomac) May 31, 2019
“That’s good for me because I know he’s coming back with a fire in his belly and we can hopefully get it all tied up that he is coming back ready and firing on all cylinders to get this club back to where we believe it should be, but it is a no-brainer for me in terms of what he gives you on the pitch and also the identity he has got with this football club.
“We need players like Cammy Kerr.”
McPake has just six weeks to build a squad before the first round of the Betfred Cup gets underway. Indeed, with a little over three weeks until the squad regroups for pre-season training, McPake isn’t expecting much of a holiday and in fact wishes it could come sooner. Such is his desire to get started in the job.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
“I wish it was sooner, I know that probably sounds a bit daft because we need to get the players in, but I’m ready to go.
“Bring it on, let’s meet it face on and let’s go and put a good team on that pitch that these fans can go away from here, or when they follow us away from home, proud of and that is the ultimate aim for me.”