James McPake insists he is fully focused on tomorrow’s match against St Mirren and not on whether he will throw his hat into the ring to become the next permanent Dundee boss.
The 34-year-old was asked to take temporary charge of the first team earlier this week following Jim McIntyre’s sacking on Sunday.
Former Dark Blues defender McPake, whose career was ended by a knee injury suffered against Dundee United three years ago, is now a coach at Dens and he admitted he was honoured to be asked to prepare the squad this week.
The game against the Buddies might be a dead rubber for Dundee who are already facing up to life in the Championship following their relegation but the popular “Jazza” insists there is still plenty to play for and he is determined to finally give the home fans something to cheer about in what has been a season to forget.
McPake, who has also played for Livingston, Coventry and Hibs, said: “This week has been challenging in a good way.
“It has been very busy but I have enjoyed it. I wasn’t surprised to be asked, I was honoured.
“It is a football club that means a lot to me for a lot of different reasons.
“First of all they took a chance on me when I hadn’t played for six months after my second back surgery.
“I had some decent times at the club but then I had another injury and they couldn’t have done any more for me.”
When asked if he would like the manager’s job on a permanent basis: McPake said: “I have genuinely not had a chance (to think about it), and I mean that.
“The workload doesn’t frighten me and I have a feeling back in my belly that’s not been there since I led the team out against Dundee United on the 2nd of January the year I got injured.
“It is a feeling of being around the first team again.
“I was at St Mirren on Monday night, I went to an Under-18 game on Tuesday night and I was at another game on Wednesday night.
“So as you can imagine, I have not even had the chance to speak to my wife who has eight weeks to go until our third baby is here.
“I have always wanted to be a manager but it would be disrespectful to this football club for me to say I want to do this or that.
“I have a big game to take charge of on Saturday.
“I have been leaving the house at 20 past six in the morning and not getting back until 10 or 11 o’clock at night at night.
“Is that a problem? Absolutely not.
“This week has been hectic but it is something I am used to and it is hectic in a way that I want.
“I love football, first-team football and big games – there is another one coming on Saturday.”
While McPake may be a managerial beginner, there are more than a few precedents for rookies taking clubs up from the Championship such as Derek McInnes at St Johnstone, Robbie Neilson at Hearts and just this season, Stuart Kettlewell and Steven and Ferguson at Ross County.
When this was pointed out to McPake, he smiled and said: “You’ve just given me a thought!
“Look, I am not going to come in here and say it is completely out of my head – of course you think about it.
“But I just want to do it right this week and I wholeheartedly mean that.
“I know it is a boring answer but that is just what I have been doing.”
McPake admitted he had only spoken to managing director John Nelms directly about the job when he phoned him earlier this week.
He said: “John’s exact words to me when he called were, ‘We would like you to take charge. Go and do it your way this week. Do me a favour and enjoy it’.
“I have had a conversation with him at training today about sprinklers on the pitch. That’s all we have spoken about.
“I want to get this week out of the way, I genuinely do. I don’t mean that in a bad way – I will put everything I can into this week – but I think as a football club we owe it to the fans.”
McPake added: “We know it has not been good enough and that is not talking about any managers.
“I am talking about the players and they know they have not been good enough – no team that has been relegated has been.
“It hurts, of course it does but it is really hurting those fans who turn out week in, week out.
“So we want to give them something, give them the excitement over the summer of thinking we have a chance here.
“It is a big game for our football club – forget St Mirren and Hamilton – it is about Dundee Football Club.
“It may mean nothing in terms of league position but it means everything in terms of pride.
“I know what I have seen this week that we are going turn up, fight and do all we can to win it for our fans.”
There will be a welcome return to the squad for long-term injury victim Josh Meekings with McPake also tempted to give some of the club’s promising youngsters a chance.