James McPake says leading Dundee back to the Premiership is the “proudest day” in his footballing career.
The Dark Blues will return to Scottish football’s top table next season after seeing off Kilmarnock in the Premiership play-offs.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, McPake’s men roared into a two-goal lead at Rugby Park.
Goals from Danny Mullen and Lee Ashcroft within 12 minutes had Dundee 4-1 up on aggregate before Kyle Lafferty’s penalty in the 69th-minute cut the deficit.
The Dark Blues, though, held out to achieve McPake’s “dream”.
“We did it for all the staff that couldn’t be here, our backroom staff, the footballing staff and the group of players – it means the world,” he said.
“It’s not sunk in and I don’t think it will for a while. We’ll enjoy tonight and a few days before building for next season.
“It’s the proudest day in my footballing career. I’ve had many sore ones but I’m not afraid of failing. I’ve failed a lot but I’ll always dream.
“I had a dream to take this club back to the Premiership but it’s now real, it’s not a dream any more.”
He added: “It is all about the players and to a man they have been unbelievable.
“The senior players have been fantastic and the belief has always been there.
“We have a great group of senior players, a great group of kids and a great staff.
“The hunger and belief has always been there.
“The players deserve the credit.”
— SPFL (@spfl) May 24, 2021
Dundee were deserving winners in both legs as Kilmarnock dropped into the Championship for the first time in 28 years.
However, McPake says it was no shock to him seeing his side dominate a top-flight opponent across two legs.
“I wasn’t surprised we were comfortable and I’m not being arrogant,” he added.
“I just believed in our form and our players.
“We gave St Johnstone a really hard game not long ago and should have put them out the cup to be honest.
“I knew the levels we could reach so I wasn’t surprised we could win a two-legged tie against any Premiership team.
“With the big-game players we’ve got, I knew we’d have a great chance.”