Dundee are the club James McPake would have chosen to manage first after they stood by him following a devastating injury that cut short his career. He now hopes Gordon Strachan will join him and new assistant Jimmy Nicholl.
The 34 year-old has struck up a relationship with Strachan, below, dating back further than this week, when the former Scotland manager has been in Dundee to weigh up taking on a role at the club. McPake revealed he has been using Strachan as a sounding board for several months while working with the club’s youths.
John Nelms, the Dundee managing director, confirmed talks are ongoing with Strachan and revealed he had some input into the Dens Park club’s decision to promote McPake to manager on a one-year-rolling contract.
Dundee’s initial long list to succeed Jim McIntyre stretched to 38 names. This was whittled down to 12 and then, finally, to two, with McPake emerging as the successful candidate over Jim Goodwin, who remains with Alloa Athletic.
“He spent a lot of time with us,” said Nelms of Strachan. “But we talked to six or seven different football people [about the managerial options], Gordon being one of them.
“He gave us some really good advice,” he added. “He doesn’t say do this or do that, he just asks do we feel this is right or wrong, shows us how to look at things. He’s given up hours of his time to us. It’s been fantastic. But five or six others are doing that as well.”
On Strachan’s prospective role, Nelms said: “It’s a bigger thing than we initially started with. So there are a lot of logistics in what we’re trying to do. We’re working on it.”
Strachan’s arrival could be confirmed as soon as the start of next week. McPake is certainly desperate for the 62-year-old to come on board, either as director of football or in another advisory capacity. Even if he decides against returning to football, McPake is confident he can keep turning to Strachan for advice.
“I would love it [if he came] but I still think the relationship is there where I can go to him,” he said. “It was there before and knowing Gordon I know he wants to help young coaches and managers. He has a great enthusiasm for the game. You go on the phone and ask him his opinion on something and you come off and he has told you another 15 different things you did not even know or ask him [about].”
McPake initially used their shared Coventry City association as an icebreaker. He was a player there for three years and it is where Strachan’s managerial career began in 1996, when he took over from Ron Atkinson.
“I just started talking about Coventry, I needed a link!” said McPake. “ ‘How did you enjoy your time at Coventry?’ He was like: ‘who’s this?!’
“He will never say do this or do that, but he will give you his opinion,” he added. “Then he will say: ‘But you need to find a way’. Jimmy Nicholl is the same, he comes into that category. To have these people you can turn to [is priceless] but I know I will be judged on my own decisions.”
Among the first of these is securing full-back and boyhood Dundee fan Cammy Kerr on a new contract. He is currently in limbo after McIntyre decided against offering him a new deal, despite being a first-team regular for more than three seasons. McPake suggested Kerr has been holding off signing elsewhere in order to see if a new Dundee manager might provide him with a reprieve at the club he loves.
“That’s my top priority at the minute,” said McPake. “I had to get Jimmy Nic over the line first. But, from this afternoon, I will be doing everything I can to make Cammy Kerr a Dundee player for as long as we can. He’s so important to me, the way he carries himself around this place. It would be mad to say I want to bring young players through when I’ve already got one on the pitch. He wants to stay, too.
“I’ll tell you about Cammy Kerr. He will have people out there who will want him. Cammy has played 150-odd games in the top league. He’s come through the ranks and there will be a lot of interest in him. But he’s still waiting to see what’s happening here. That speaks volumes for him. As long as I’m here, I want Cammy Kerr here.”
Kenny Miller is one of eight first-team players signed to Dundee ahead of next season. Despite the 39-year-old striker having been a rival candidate for the manager’s job, McPake expects to see Miller at pre-season training on 21 June. “It will not cause a problem for me, certainly not,” he said.