James McPake opens up on 'trust' after Dundee exit and using his contacts book at Dunfermline

For so long such a familiar part of his attire, James McPake has been careful to replace the Dundee pin badge on his blazer collar with a Dunfermline one.

But one suspects it might take him some time to wash Dundee out of his noticeably longer hair following his unveiling at East End Park. The grooming oversight is evidence of just how quickly things have changed for the 37-year-old. He’s not even had time for a haircut. As recently as two weeks ago, he didn’t feel ready to return to the dugout. Now he does.

“I’m refreshed,” he said. “I don’t look it. It happened that quick that I’ve not had a chance to get to the barbers. I’m looking a bit rough maybe. It was whirlwind, bang, ‘when do you want to start?’”

He clocked on on Tuesday – a year to the day since he was celebrating winning promotion to the top flight with Dundee. Now he’s in the third tier hoping to prod awake another so-called sleeping giant. Vivid illustrations of better days adorn the walls of the Jock Stein Lounge.

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“You can say ‘this club is too big to be in League One’ all you like,” he said. “No, it’s not. We’re in League One.

“You look at the pictures on the wall, of course, but how can we arc back to that? That’s miles away from where we are. So we want to create our own wee bit of history and try to be that force that everyone keeps saying Dunfermline should be.”

He’s relishing the challenge. “I had an offer very early on, maybe a week after (Dundee),” he revealed. “Then I had a phonemail asking why my CV was not in at another club. I won’t name the clubs. I said I don’t think I’m ready to go back in.

“That phonemail was 15, 16 days ago. Then this job jumped up. I’ve done a lot of research. A lot on the club, a lot on the squad.”

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Former Dundee manager James McPake is unveiled at Dunfermline Athletic. "I'm refreshed," he said.

The bruising end to his eight-year chapter at Dundee freed up time to have more surgery on his left knee. He has a leg brace and is walking with the aid of crutches. He hopes it is the final operation on the injury which ended his playing career in 2016.

As McPake explained himself, Dundee is the only reference point he has as manager. He learnt what to do and perhaps what not to do at Dens Park, where he lost his job in February after two successive victories. “I have had a lot of conversations with people that I trust (since),” he said. “I know that is important. Trust…”

It’s clear he felt letdown at the end. He retains a fierce belief that he would have kept Dundee up. After all, they were 11th at the time – two points above St Johnstone. They finished six points adrift at the bottom under Mark McGhee, recruited on the say so of technical director Gordon Strachan.

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McPake’s popularity with his former players is evident. Several have been in touch with good luck messages, including free agent Charlie Adam. McPake intends to keep using his contacts book to good effect. “You’ve got to be astute and sometimes use your imagination like we did with Charlie,” he said.

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