James McPake says guiding Dundee back to the Premiership would be the biggest achievement of his career as he prepares his side for this week’s play-off with Raith Rovers.
The Dark Blues afforded themselves a break from action by pipping the Kirkcaldy side to second place.
However, John McGlynn’s Rovers saw off Dunfermline in the quarter-final stage to tee up a clash with McPake’s men.
That leaves just two matches this week and a potential double-header against the Premiership’s 11th-placed side between Dundee and promotion.
‘I owe it to the fans’
Should they navigate their way through the four gruelling contests, the Dens boss says it would eclipse all he achieved in his playing career.
Asked what it would mean to take Dundee up, McPake replied: “It would mean everything.
“Genuinely it would be the biggest achievement of my footballing career.
“This would mean the world to me, particularly because of the way this club have looked after me and my family with my injury.
“I owe it to the fans because they backed me when I was a player.
“I love it here – it’s the longest time I’ve spent at a club and I am a Dundee fan now.
“I’ve real affection for this club. They have given me a chance to become a coach and then a manager.
“Paul Hartley took a chance on me as a cripple basically and I had one-and-a-half decent seasons as a player here.
“I went through my badges and now being manager, taking this club to the Premiership would be incredible.
“But we have Raith to take on first and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Victory gives Raith a boost
While preparing his side for this week’s play-off, McPake was able to take in Raith’s all-Fife play-off clash with Dunfermline.
And he expects the victory will have given Rovers a boost after suffering two defeats in their final two league games.
“That was always going to be a tense affair,” McPake added.
“Saturday was a cagey game with a lot at stake and any team could have won it.
“Credit to John McGlynn and his players because he got through a really tough and gruelling two Fife derbies.
“I think both teams could have won that – I’m not trying to plant any seeds – but they both had chances and Raith were the clinical ones in the end.
“Mentally, that will give them a boost.”
And McPake doesn’t expect the week break for his players to have a big impact on how this week’s matches go.
“The luxury we’ve had is that we’ve had time to work with the players. We’ve worked hard.
“Bearing in mind we’ve only played 27 league games, a couple Scottish Cup ties and a Betfred Cup campaign, normally at this stage of the season you’ve had a gruelling league campaign and stuff like that.
“Those extra two games that Raith have had will be tough on them because they were Fife derbies and high pressure games, but I don’t see it having too much of an impact.
“What I will say is that the benefit we’ve had is the extra time on the training pitch with the players.
“We had gone Saturday-midweek-Saturday-midweek for a few weeks and it’s been a good chance to go back over the things we were doing well and things that we can maybe polish up on that weren’t going so well.”
Almost full squad to choose from
Both Jordan Marshall and Liam Fontaine are back in training after they missed the end of the season with hamstring complaints.
Marshall pulled up in the 0-0 draw at Dunfermline almost a month ago while Fontaine limped off during the 2-1 home win over Raith on April 24.
That leaves the Dark Blues with only a couple of absentees going into the biggest week of their season.
“Liam and Jordon are both training and are available,” he added.
“Jack Hamilton and Finlay Robertson are the only ones who aren’t available.
“The good thing about the period off is that we were able to protect a few of them.”
Both Wednesday’s tie at Stark’s Park and the return leg at Dens will be shown live on BBC Scotland.