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Dundee decision to sack James McPake had been made BEFORE Hearts victory, admits John Nelms

Former Dundee manager James McPake, managing director John Nelms and current manager Mark McGhee.
Former Dundee manager James McPake, managing director John Nelms and current manager Mark McGhee.

Dundee’s decision to sack James McPake came BEFORE February’s victory over Hearts at Tynecastle.

The Dens Park club shocked many when it chose to dispense with their former captain after two victories and one defeat in six games.

But it was that loss to Ross County at Dens Park on February 5 that cost McPake his job, managing director John Nelms has revealed.

Incoming manager Mark McGhee watched the 2-1 success at Hearts before taking the job on two weeks later.

Heading into this weekend’s home clash with Aberdeen, McGhee is still searching for his first victory after seven matches in charge.

Former Dundee manager James McPake.
Former Dundee manager James McPake.

Dundee’s last win came at Peterhead in McPake’s final match in charge while there was a major outcry among fans when McGhee was appointed.

Asked about the timing of the decision, Nelms said: “Normally, if we were going to make a change we’d wait for an international break, make a change and give the new manager time with the squad.

“We don’t look at anything in a very short, narrow timeframe.

“We beat a team that was ninth in League One and we beat Hearts but the decision had already been made prior to that.

“It was unbelievably difficult to make the change. James is like a son to us, we invested in him and we didn’t go through our usual change protocols.

“We went through the window to give him the best opportunity to succeed but it just didn’t change and it wasn’t in the ascendancy.

“So we made the difficult decision.”

‘Overall picture has worked’

Nelms says he has seen signs of improvement under McGhee and assistant manager Simon Rusk.

The Dark Blues did impress in the first half of their last outing against Rangers but fell to a late defeat.

“I do see that we are better organised,” Nelms said.

Dundee manager Mark McGhee, right, and assistant Simon Rusk.

“I think Mark has been unfortunate with player Covid issues, we’ve had serious injury issues – right now we don’t have our first-choice keeper, centre-back or captain.

“It is hard so I think the overall picture has worked. I think if we had everyone healthy, it would be a different conversation.

“In the first half of the second Rangers game, we got our tactics spot on. They brought on players to lift their level and we just don’t have that.”

‘Unique scenario’

Nelms also revealed there were conversations with other potential managers but McGhee was the man for the “unique scenario” Dundee found themselves in.

Technical director Gordon Strachan played a big role in the decision but Nelms says there were other opinions sought as well.

Asked if there were other candidates: “Yes, there was a list. But it’s a difficult situation because you don’t have the ability to bring in other players.

Mark McGhee is closing in on 1,000 games as a manager.

“It was a unique scenario and some managers relish that sort of challenge.

“We had conversations with others but we came to the conclusion that in this situation, a manager with 980 matches under his belt, has been there and done it and has the backing of Gordon.

“We spoke to others about Mark as well, not just Gordon, and got good reports across the board.”

Fan reaction

Supporters, though, were unimpressed with the arrival of a man who hadn’t managed in Scotland for five years and had a six-game ban hanging over his head.

Was Nelms surprised by the reaction from the fans?

“Yes and no,” he said.

“I think there were about four or five managers wanted by the fans and Mark wasn’t one of them so straight away people aren’t happy because it’s not their guy.

“Just like we were sad to see James go, some won’t have been but others were upset.

“It’s one of those where you have to understand this is the situation we are in and the high-level football people we talked to said this was the best way.

“Once again, it’s a decision made that might not be popular but it’s the best for the organisation.”

GEORGE CRAN: Why some things might change for the better at Dundee and why others won’t after watershed week for club and fans

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