James McPake admits his first season as Dundee manager is one he will never forget.
His side’s form would convex and concave with ferocity, his competency was pointedly scrutinised throughout and, to cap it off, the coronavirus would knock the Dee off their stride.
All this said, McPake believes he can provide much-needed consistency for the Dark Blues, prove he is the man for the job and meet the demands of football post-Covid-19.
“I have learned how defeats really hurt you,” the rookie boss said of his first managerial role.
“As a player they also hurt you but when you are a manager it hurts you tenfold.
“What do we need to improve on as a team?
“I have said from the start we need to be more consistent because that is what let us down.
“On our day, we are as good as any team in the league but there was a stage last season where we didn’t know what was coming.
“I take the hit on that because I pick the team.
“You need a level of consistency to get out of this league and if you go and look at all the teams there was a consistency.
“We went on a couple of good runs but then had runs where we lost three games in a row and that is criminal for a club like Dundee.
“It can happen, of course it can.
“I can’t say it will never happen again because there could be spells where you get seven or eight injuries but, hopefully, it won’t.
“Going back and watching those games they were silly and it was poor from us as a full group.
“There are things we have learned and we need to work on. We have picked up on things and we have addressed them.”
He continued: “It’s my first job and I felt I was ready and I still feel I am ready.
“There are a lot of good things that did come out of the season and I felt we would have finished the last campaign really strongly.
“In terms of what do we need? We still need to add quality to the squad. Every manager is always looking for good players.”
With the Championship set to return on October 17 in a shortened 27-game season, McPake believes the new conditions will be a challenge for everybody.
The 35-year-old Dee boss continued his reflection, looking at his own performance last term for answers going into a new dawn.
“It’s something that’s going to be new to everybody,” he added.
“People will say it’s important we start very well but, for me, it’s being a consistent team throughout those 27 games.
“If you do that from the get go then you’ll have a chance.
“If you’re losing three games in a row here or there then there’s no chance.
“We’ll be working on our team to have it as fit as possible and as coached into the way we want to do things.
“Last season I didn’t do that well enough in certain games and the players have looked at themselves as well.
“Some of the performances were extremely poor. I’ll highlight the 2-0 game in January at East End Park – we were ridiculously bad that night.
“That was as a group so we sat down and really dug into that game. We could see from that moment we weren’t going to let it happen again.
“We weren’t going to be that bad again and, if we were to get beat, teams would have to work to do it.
“We found form after that. It was our last defeat of the season.
“There were a lot of meetings at that time and I hate going into these clichés that there was soul searching.
“It wasn’t that but we had senior players saying ‘lads that just wasn’t good enough’ and then we saw a difference.
“People will say it’s because Christophe Berra and Conor Hazard came in, the likes of Ross Callachan and Christie Elliot, but I just think as a group we got better.
“I’ll always defend my players but from then on I think we looked like a different Dundee team.
“I think, going forward, we would’ve cause real problems in the play-offs.
“Everybody could see that at the time. We were really comfortable in the Ayr United double-header and showed we could roll our sleeves up down there.
“At Dens Park it was as dominant a performance as you were likely to see against a rival who were above us that night.
“I’ve looked at all these things and it’s just a pity it stopped because we were hitting a real consistent level of performance.”
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