James McPake has vowed to settle the debt he owes Dundee for helping him walk tall again by marching the club into the Premiership.
The former Hibernian captain first made his move to Dens Park in 2014 and initially did enough to hush those that questioned his lengthy injury record.
But a fractured knee cap suffered in a horror collision during a January 2016 Dundee derby effectively killed off his first-team career.
The damage sustained was so bad McPake feared he would never be able to shake the limp he was left with for a time.
But with the support of club owner Tim Keyes and managing director John Nelms, McPake is now back on his feet determined to repay the medical assistance they provided by leading Dundee through this week’s play-off final with Kilmarnock.
“This football club means a lot to me because of the way they have treated me,” said the Dens Park boss ahead of Thursday’s first leg, which his side host. “They signed me when I was deemed a cripple basically.
“I got 55 games before getting the injury but they helped me on the road to my coaching career.
“I’ve got to pass on massive thanks to John and Tim for the treatment they got me.
“Their help has got me to the point where I can walk without a limp, when that looked impossible at one stage.
“I can even join in training a little bit now – although the boys just get annoyed at me for giving the ball away. That used to happen when I was fit anyway.
“John and Tim trusted me again to go take this job on when it came up so it would mean everything to me to get this club back to the Premiership.
“That’s not a cliche. I’ve been here a while now and I know how much work goes on from the staff and the people in the background.
“The fans have played their part too raising so much money during the tough times we’ve been through during the pandemic.
“They’ve backed us. Look, the football has not been great at times under me and Dave and there has been some bad runs.
“But when it’s really mattered we’ve got them going and now we need one final push.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about the fans and John and Tim and the group of players, who have been magnificent.
“I’d just love to wake up on Tuesday morning as the manager of Dundee, a Premiership club.
“It’s a pity the fans won’t be in either of the games. I might even have a look at social media for the first time to see their reaction if we get through. If we don’t I certainly won’t – I’ll hide away somewhere.
“We need two massive performances but I believe if we get that, we’ve got a very good chance.”