James McPake has told how he thought his chance of getting the Dundee job had gone up in smoke last summer after the bookies installed Jim Goodwin as odds-on favourite.
The search for the man tasked with getting the Dark Blues back to the Premiership came down to two candidates last May – McPake and Goodwin.
At the time, the 35-year-old was the club’s academy boss while Goodwin had impressed during his time as boss at part-time Alloa Athletic.
But managing director John Nelms broke the news to McPake amid a car full of “screaming” kids.
Speaking to former Dens team-mate Simon Ferry’s Open Goal podcast, the Dens gaffer said: “The bookies had given it to Jim Goodwin already so I thought I had no chance of getting the job.
“People think because I was in the club I got tipped off but I didn’t. It was a long process. In the end I got a phone call from John saying they were going to offer me the job.
“I was in the motor. When I got the call I knew it was one way or the other. I hadn’t got any inside information, the club did it properly.
“The kids were screaming in the car and John phoned to offer me the job. He said to call back because he could hear the kids so we could talk.”
McPake had taken the first team as caretaker boss in the wake of Jim McIntyre’s sacking for the final match of the season, a dead rubber for the Dark Blues against St Mirren at Dens Park.
The match ended in a disappointing 3-2 defeat to the Buddies after playing for 68 minutes with 10 men following Darren O’Dea’s straight red card on his final outing for the club.
However, being in charge for that week gave McPake the “a wee buzz” for first-team football again that he couldn’t shake off.
He added: “Once I got the bug I knew I couldn’t go back.
“I think it was around the Wednesday I said to John not let me to rule myself out of this. He didn’t give anything away but I had to get it out there because I had a wee buzz.
“I was asked if the job interested me and I said I’d not even thought about it but I had had wee thoughts. (St Mirren’s) Tony Fitzpatrick had overheard that and phoned me on the way home and asked why I said that. He said never rule yourself out of a job because you never know when you’ll get another chance.”
McPake also revealed he had received plenty of advice from two former Dundee players now in management themselves.
Ex-Celtic and Scotland boss Gordon Strachan had offered his support before he joined the club as technical director while then-Sunderland manager Jack Ross took time out of his preparation for a key League One play-off match to help out McPake.
“Gordon said he’d help any young manager, anything I wanted. I’d never met him but he said ‘anything you need, son’,” added McPake.
“Jack Ross as well, Sunderland had a play-off match the next day but he spent an hour on the phone with me about getting the Dundee job, what to say in the interview and what to do with the press after the St Mirren game.
“After that I thought, there are good people in football.”