Dundee manager James McPake is preparing his side for this Sunday’s first derby of the season, knowing full well what’s at stake.
The former defender has experienced highs and lows against United – it also cost him his playing career.
But McPake insists he’d make the tackle on John Rankin in the 15th minute of the 2016 New Year’s derby all over again.
‘Would I make the tackle again?’
Speaking to Sky Sports News, the former Northern International recalled the challenge.
“The corner was played to John Rankin who, as we all know, can strike a ball.
“Someone had to get out and it was me who made the tackle. Otherwise, there was a good chance Ranks was putting it in the top corner,” he said.
🗣️"That tackle ended my career."
Dundee boss James McPake opens up about that tackle against Dundee United, being a manager and the derby. Watch Sunday's Dundee derby live on Sky Sports from 11am📺 pic.twitter.com/vsKxyOK4HT
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) September 16, 2021
“I made the tackle and knew right away that something was up. That was the end of my derby and effectively my playing career.”
A committed player throughout his career, McPake showed no regret for the moment which put a halt to his professional playing career.
He added: “I knew when I looked at my knee that something was seriously wrong.
“Was I thinking career ending? No, because I’d probably never think that, and that’s why I carried on for so long.
“I could have got back and kept going and played at a level but my knee was never right.
“Would I make the tackle again? Well, Ranks would have put it in the top corner, so I’d have to make it again.
“That might sound stupid to people but if I didn’t make that tackle I wouldn’t be standing here as manager.”
Gratitude to Dundee
Although unable to play, Dundee helped McPake in his rehab and gave him the opportunity to coach at the club.
That ultimately led to him being appointed as manager following the departure of Jim McIntyre in 2019.
This is something McPake will always be grateful to the club’s owners for. He added: “It’s humbling, to have been given the manager’s job at such a young age.
“I’m thankful to a lot of people for that. Obviously John [Nelms] and Tim [Keyes] in particular. Then you’ve got Paul Hartley and Neil McCann who were excellent and both occupied this office.
“Coming to this club and having a couple of good seasons as a player, then I got the injury.
“They helped me with my coaching and got my knee to a position where I can run around with the kids and do bits and bobs in training. At one point I thought I’d be walking about with a limp.
“So I’ve a lot to thank them for, but I think we gave them a bit of payback with getting promoted back to the Premiership.”