Alan Pattullo: Dundee's dramatic week - no warning for James McPake, fans left in dark, Mark McGhee, The Waterboys and croissants

When the lead singer of The Waterboys is moved to react to events at Dundee FC, something of note has clearly occurred.
New Dundee manager Mark McGhee meets the press on his unveiling at Dens Park.New Dundee manager Mark McGhee meets the press on his unveiling at Dens Park.
New Dundee manager Mark McGhee meets the press on his unveiling at Dens Park.

Mike Scott was quick to offer his view on news a McGhee was taking over at Dens Park. “Alan McGee to the rescue!” he tweeted with reference to the Glaswegian music Svengali best known for signing Oasis. “You never know where he’s going to turn up next…”

It’s unlikely Scott – who grew up in Edinburgh and then Ayr – has a keen interest in Dundee. He’s more of a Hearts man. He did once include the line “running around banging your drum like it’s 1973” in the song This is the Sea from the band’s breakthrough third album of the same name. That could be a salute to the last time the Dens Park club won a major trophy with a 1-0 win over Celtic in the League Cup final.

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Such glory days as the one Scott may or may not have referenced are long gone. Still, it’s not impossible Dundee could end this drought this year.

McGhee is introduced by Dundee's chief executive John Nelms.McGhee is introduced by Dundee's chief executive John Nelms.
McGhee is introduced by Dundee's chief executive John Nelms.

They are after all still in the Scottish Cup having been safely deposited in the quarter finals by James McPake on Monday night courtesy of a hard fought win in Peterhead. While it wasn’t pretty the 3-0 win secured Dundee's first appearance at this stage of the competition since 2016. McPake – Dundee badge on his suit lapel, as usual – was later interviewed on BBC Scotland. He looked forward to the prospect of a game at Dens against Rangers next month as Dundee fans could be heard singing in the background in the bar at Balmoor. Fewer than 48 hours later last orders had been called. McPake was out.

The news stopped even legendary Scottish musicians in their tracks. Former Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson, meanwhile, tweeted that Dundee’s statement, which stressed that McPake would always remain a “valued and loved member of the Dundee FC family”, was one of “the most gracious of the kind” she had read. That was one way of looking at it.

In a week when Dundee was reported to have the unwanted record of most crimes per 10,000 people in Scotland, some would contend a heist has been perpetrated on top of a hill at a place of hope they call Dens Park. McPake had been ousted in favour of an out of work 64-year-old who just happens to be best friends with the club’s technical director. Coincidentally, he had also watched Dundee’s win over Hearts a week earlier. It was the ultimate inside job.

Geographical details alone meant the game was up. McGhee lives in Brighton. He was at training the morning after McPake’s departure was announced in the late afternoon on Wednesday. “Cards on the table,” McGhee admirably admitted later. “We all know how this works…”

James McPake was relieved of his duties with no warning.James McPake was relieved of his duties with no warning.
James McPake was relieved of his duties with no warning.

It is the latest unedifying episode to blight Dundee although it shouldn’t be viewed as the first time the club have made a contentious managerial change.

Nor are they the only club to have made such calls. There are those who could deliver a strong argument that Stephen Glass was harshly treated and deserved more time. A hero as a player, Glass is already a memory as Aberdeen manager. Just seven days after Glass left the Fir Park pitch to sound and fury from the 2,000 strong Aberdeen travelling support his replacement was being hailed by many of these same fans at the same stadium yesterday.

Glass at least knew he was in a sticky situation. “Time will tell,” he told a group of us as we interviewed him on the touchline following last week’s Scottish Cup defeat to Motherwell. McPake had reason to feel slightly more secure.

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It would be disingenuous to pretend all Dundee fans were enamoured with him. A banner urging his removal appeared on gates at the stadium as recently as a couple of weekends ago, following the home defeat to Ross County. But then came wins at Hearts and Peterhead.

The first McPake knew of anything being up was when he was called in to managing director John Nelms’ office after training on Wednesday. Not even those high up the staff chain at Dundee were given any indication of what was about to happen. It is a tight ship they run at Dens these days. Nelms and Gordon Strachan, Strachan and Nelms. The circle of trust is small.

It isn’t McGhee's fault that he has been considered the best option to keep Dundee in the Premiership. He has grabbed the chance like anyone in his position would have done. Asked whether he had considered delaying his arrival until after such a thankless assignment as today’s clash against Celtic, he looked offended. On the contrary, he stressed, bring it on.

“I mean, if you do not want to go to Parkhead and manage …on Sunday I will be managing my team in front of 60,000 people,” he said. “Last Sunday, you know, I was watching the Andrew Marr show, with croissants and my feet up. I definitely know which one I prefer.”

He has always displayed a colourful turn of phrase even if truth is sometimes a casualty. The Marr show went off air in December. But we knew the point he was making.

Mention of the Dundee-raised Marr was a reminder that it would be helpful if Nelms might sometime consider agreeing to be questioned on the increasing number of issues currently of concern to Dundee supporters.

It’s not just that fans are feeling detached from the Dens power base. They are being actively rebuffed.

“We at DFC must be the only full-time club in Scotland that does not have an AGM or meaningful Q & A session,” the secretary of Dee4Life Trust noted in one of three letters sent to the club late last year. There has been no reply to date.

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