James McPake insists he is better equipped to succeed as Dunfermline Athletic manager following his galling dismissal by Dundee.
McPake, 37, was axed by the Dee in February, with the timing raising plenty of eyebrows.
The Dark Blues were sitting 11th in the Premiership, in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup and on a run of just one defeat in six fixtures.
McPake’s successor, Mark McGhee, won just one of the club’s next 14 fixtures as Dundee were relegated — finishing six points adrift of St Johnstone at the bottom of the table.
“Last season was not how we planned or hoped it would pan out at Dundee,” noted McPake.
“But we were still on our feet in February and still fighting.”
There’s no bitterness, but it is easy to detect some lingering regret.
Having spent eight years at Dens Park as captain, coach and manager, their descent to the Championship gave him no pleasure.
“I feel gutted for that fanbase and for the football club,” he continued.
“It hurt me seeing that [relegation]. There are still a lot of people there I am close to and the fans were good to me.
“They booed me at times — of course they did, I lost some big games — but I think I did enough and had enough credit in the bank for the majority to back me and stand by me.
“I don’t have any bad words to say about them.”
Since leaving Dens Park, McPake has dipped his toe into the world of punditry, popping up on Sky Sports, the BBC and GoRadio.
Sportscene Scottish Cup Quarter Final highlights 🏆
BBC Scotland Channel 📺
James McPake and Alan Hutton with us tonight in the studio 🗣 pic.twitter.com/Yc59l1JBvT
— Jonathan Sutherland (@MrJonSutherland) March 13, 2022
He underwent a long-needed knee operation which, as he puts it: “Will finally let me run about with my three kids.”
He has also embarked on a period of self-reflection, taking advice from — among others — ex-St Johnstone and Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.
McPake acknowledges that the time away has been valuable, given he moved immediately from his retirement as a player to the Dundee under-18s coaching set-up, then became first-team boss.
There was barely a moment to catch his breath.
“This is the first time in 22 years I have been able to sit back and reflect,” added McPake. “What have I done right as a manager, and what I have done wrong?
It was never meant to be easy!Dr Grace got to be a Dr in a proper hospital today. Best Dr I’ve had, she knew all I needed was a hug.Too many I owe thanks to for the last few days to list.
“We all have setbacks.The important thing is to rise back up and continue to move forward” pic.twitter.com/YMDOWejDd9
— James McPake (@JamesMcPake5) April 28, 2022
“The reflection period — and the time alone because of the surgery — has been really good for me. I was able to just lie there and write down things, like Derek McInnes advised me to.
“‘Be brutally honest with yourself’, he said, because there’s no point lying to yourself about it. There’s no point hiding from the things you got wrong and thinking it was someone else’s fault.
“But you also have to focus on the things you got right, what you achieved and what you’d take into your next job.
“I’m better equipped now, without a doubt. Until now, my career as a manager had been a whirlwind.”