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James McPake dismisses ‘sleeping giant’ talk as new Dunfermline boss delivers Pars wake-up call

Determined: McPake
Determined: McPake

The weight of history hung heavy in the air as James McPake addressed the assembled media in the Jock Stein Centenary Suite.

Named after the club’s greatest-ever manager, the walls are adorned by images of the iconic boss and Dunfermline’s Scottish Cup-winning side of 1961.

The great Charlie Dickson; gleaming silverware; European adventures — glory days captured in brilliant black-and-white.

“You look at those pictures on the wall,” says McPake. “But how can we hark back to that? That’s miles away from where we are.”

McPake has signed a deal until the summer of 2024

While respectful of the past, McPake has little desire to hear musings about how the Fifers are a ‘sleeping giant’; a team who ‘should’ be in the Premiership.

He has that in common with the majority of fed-up Dunfermline fans. Talk is cheap.

The Pars have now been relegated to League One twice — albeit administration played a large part in the first of those — since they last played top-flight football in Scotland.

And McPake is adamant Dunfermline must earn their place in Scottish football, regardless of impressive stadium, sizeable fanbase and storied history.

Irrelevant

“‘Feels’ and ‘should’ (be in the top-flight) are words that jump out to me,” said McPake. “They are irrelevant.

“You can say this club is too big to be in League One all you like. It’s not. We’re in League One.

“I was at Hibs when people were saying we were too big to get relegated. We got relegated.

“At Dundee, although I was injured at the time, that team looked too good to go down. It wasn’t.

“We don’t have any divine right to say we’re too big for this division. We have to show respect to every club in this division, but also have ambition and pride.

“The phrase ‘sleeping giant’ is bandied about all the time. It was the same at Dundee.

McPake was dismissed by Dundee in February.

“But you are where you are for a reason and that’s because we didn’t win enough games in the Championship last season. That’s honesty.

“We need to prove we are good enough to win games of football, before talking about anything else.”

Dundee descent

However, McPake has absolute belief in his ability to revive fortunes and lift the mood at East End Park following Dunfermline’s dismal descent into the third tier.

The similarities with Dundee in 2019, when McPake took over a Dee side in the doldrums — in terms of performances and morale — and guided them back to the Premiership are apparent.

“I was in this position at Dundee,” he recalled. “I took over a team that had been relegated and it’s always hard.

The first mission is to get the fans back onside and proud of this team; give them the effort and commitment.

Metthew Todd celebrates his goal.
Extra hours: Matty Todd.

“Winning games of football is a great feeling and it has been missing at this football club for too long.

“The culture has to be that we are in (training) every single day and giving everything for Dunfermline Athletic to be better. That needs to run right through the club.

“I want every member of staff to walk into this building and feel happy and proud to work for Dunfermline Athletic.”

Training on his Todd

In a bid to characterise his demands, McPake revealed that one young Pars star has already made a positive impression.

Matty Todd didn’t know I was in (on Tuesday) but, when I came in, he was in with the sports scientist, running round the park,” revealed McPake.

“He came over and introduced himself. I asked him what he was doing and he said: ‘I’m just trying to get a wee bit fitter’. ‘I just want to get better, be fitter and be ready for next season’.

“Brilliant. That’s the attitude, whether you’re Matty Todd at 20 or Graham (Dorrans) at 35.

“He could be sitting in his house. I’m 37 and I’ve just bought a PS5 because I thought I was going to be sitting in the house! That’s what he could have been doing.”

A dejected graham Dorrans after Dunfermline's relegation was confirmed.
A dejected graham Dorrans after Dunfermline’s relegation was confirmed.

On the subject of Dorrans — a close friend and former teammate of McPake’s — the new Pars gaffer confirmed his intention to discuss his future in the coming days.

The same goes with all of Dunfermline’s out of contract players.

McPake is also pursuing his backroom staff but is yet to get any deals over the line.

“It is difficult,” he added. “People are in positions that we can’t get to. That’s a realisation.

“There are clubs in leagues above us with bigger budgets. They can afford to pay their staff more.

“So we have to be realistic. There are people I’d love to bring in but we can’t afford them.”

Why John Hughes exit was needed for Dunfermline fresh start – on and off the pitch

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