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JIM SPENCE: ‘Common decency’ was lacking in way Dundee sacked James McPake

Sacked Dundee manager James McPake and Dens managing director John Nelms.
Sacked Dundee manager James McPake and Dens managing director John Nelms.

Recently I suggested it would be folly for St Johnstone or Dundee to sack their managers despite current struggles – and I didn’t think that Steve Brown or John Nelms would do so.

The Saints chairman held his nerve and rightly continues to stick by his appointment, Callum Davidson, who brought a cup double.

At Dens though, the managing director took fright at their plight and, despite James McPake getting the club promoted last season and looking like perhaps the corner was being turned, the manager was summarily dispatched with talks to replace him seemingly having taken place while he was still engaged in his duties.

It was a night of the long knives in action – and it’s hard to avoid concluding that an honourable man has been treated dishonourably.

Charlie Adam and James McPake celebrate following Dundee's play-off triumph.
Dundee skipper Charlie Adam and sacked ex-manager James McPake celebrate following Dundee’s play-off triumph.

It’s always the right of an employer to hire and fire as long as contractual obligations are met.

There has to be some essential decency though in sacking a man who has done his very best for the club, and that’s been sadly absent in this decision.

Aberdeen took the decision to relieve Stephen Glass last week too, but at least had the decorum not to have someone lined up to replace him.

There’s little cheer for any manager when sacked, but at least usually there’s the dignity of knowing that there’s not been talks going on behind your back.

Football management is a brutal business and those involved are well aware of the lack of niceties when P45’s are handed out, but even when that fateful moment eventually comes, there’s usually a bit more common decency displayed than James McPake has been shown.


Jamie Robson, left, celebrates scoring United’s winner against Rangers at Tannadice in August

Dundee United face a serious test on Sunday against a Rangers side which destroyed Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

But the Tangerines beat their visitors in August in this fixture and, as the joint-third-best defence in the Premiership – and with the addition of top quality players like Tony Watt and Kevin McDonald – and the hugely experienced Charlie Mulgrew available again, Tam Courts’ side is well prepared for the challenge.

The vision of Dylan Levitt and the energy and vitality of Ian Harkes along with the pace and directness of Ilmari Niskanen can pose a serious examination of the Ibrox side.

Self belief and positivity have been a hallmark of Tam Courts’ tenure at Tannadice.

His unfailingly confident mind set and post-match reflections have grated with some fans, who often think they’ve seen a different game from the one their manager has watched, but the United boss is in the business of building a long-term, confident mentality at the club.

The mind in modern sport is every bit as much a business tool as pace or power, as most successful managers have long recognised.

There’s a fine line between a havering approach and a holistic approach.

Some fans may think Courts adopts the former but, in my view, he rightly adopts the latter.

His constancy in stressing the upbeat and not overplaying any negative elements is a far more beneficial approach than girning.

Great teams have great mind sets; Courts is cultivating that at Tannadice.

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