Manager previews Dundee United match 

Speaking at lunchtime James McPake revealed that he hopes to have Michael O’Halloran available for the visit to Tannadice on Saturday. 

“The squad is good minus Matty Todd, Deniz Mehmet and Kane Ritchie-Hosler, everyone else is okay. Michael O’Halloran is good, unless something happens in training tomorrow or on the bus on Saturday, he will be fit for the weekend. He has looked great this week and it is good to have him back because you just see the explosiveness, the pace and the experience he has. I’m sure we will see Michael on Saturday.”

After netting ten goals in three wins, a draw and defeat to a Premiership side this season, James claimed that there were positives going into the first away game of the Championship season:- 

“We didn’t want put out of the Viaplay Cup but performances were good. There were teams that went out and there were shocks but I don’t think in our group there were any real shocks. The Kilmarnock game still hurts a bit because I think we were very much in that game. We conceded a sloppy first goal but we matched them and they go and beat Rangers the following week. I know that you cannot really compare that but it just shows the level of performance against Kilmarnock from our lads. Kilmarnock will be decent in the Premiership this season and we matched them for large parts of that game. 

“After the Airdrie game I spoke enough about the character and the willingness from that group of players. It is never in doubt and they have never let us down, so this week has been a really really good week.”

Last Saturday was a big day for the club with the unfurling of the League One champions flag and the result of the game that followed did not disappoint even though the manner of the victory had given the manager some anxious moments in its closing stages:-

“We are used to the group doing that now that you have to sometimes have to go and remind them that they cannot keep going behind, you cannot lose a man when you are in control of a game. We need to be more clinical at the top end of the pitch and all through the team when we get into the top end of the pitch, to try and give us that wee cushion. 

“I heard Ewan Otoo’s interview after the game saying that when we went down to ten men they never felt like conceding. It must feel different on the pitch than what it did to me – I felt like conceding but maybe that’s just the coaching side always looking at what could go wrong. 

“It was good to hear that even going down to ten men, they were so good in their shape. I’m just hoping that they don’t start thinking that it is good fun to do that now and again when we are winning – to go down to ten and see how long they can do it for. It certainly drains you on the side when you are kicking every ball with one knee!”

Pars players Matthew Todd, Lewis McCann, Josh Edwards, Joe Chalmers, Aaron Comrie, Rhys Breen, Paul Allan and Deniz Mehmet have all been on the journey back to the Championship since the disastrous 2021-2022 season that saw them relegated to League One. James suggested that character wise it probably was a test for a lot of them:-

“Yes, a lot of that team had won League One but a lot of them had been relegated out of the Championship as well. It was the first taste of Championship football essentially since the Queens Park game and they handled it well. Against Airdrie after the setback they got themselves back up and in the game and then I thought in the second half we were excellent until the red card. Airdrie are not an easy team to play against. They will cause other teams problems but character wise it is just what we have been used to.”

Travelling to Tannadice Dunfermline will need to call upon those qualities of character especially against a Dundee United team that has recovered from defeat to Spartans and Partick Thistle in their opening two games of the season to win their next three including an impressive 4-0 in their first Championship game. James commented:-

“They had a good result and good performance at Arbroath. I watched that game, it is not an easy place to go. It was a good result for them and they have some decent players in that squad. Our focus, and it’s not a deflection – it is what I said last season against Peterhead or Falkirk – is the same whether it is against Airdrie, a team we know really well or against Dundee United who are rightly favourites for the league. They have just come from the Premiership, they are a big football club.

“We were maybe favourites last year but that tag didn’t bother us a jot. Whether that bothers United I don’t know but it certainly doesn’t bother me what gets said about them. They are a decent team with some good players.”

The Pars first away league game pitches James McPake up against Jim Goodwin, a manager he knows well from previous encounters:-

“He had good success at St Mirren, he did well in the Premiership with them. We faced him at Dundee when he was in the Premiership. That’s management it just doesn’t work out at certain places and I think he showed the Jim Goodwin type of player he was to come back in at Dundee United.

“His team will maybe mirror that a bit and be tough to play against. He is someone I respect, and another young manager who has done well.”

As the visiting manager at Tannadice, James acknowledges that the home fans will not have forgotten him as player and manager at neighbours Dundee.  The welcome might be short but he says that genuinely is irrelevant:-

“My job is for Dunfermline Athletic football club now. Dundee United are a club that’s in our league and we want to go up there and perform for our fans. Our relationship with United is fine, we had Chris Mochrie here last year and he really loved it. He came, he won a league, he developed, he got in the Scotland under 21s and he was a great boy to work with.

“It is genuinely irrelevant for me. I’ve had this question now and again, going back to Tynecastle as a former Hibs player with my Dundee team. I’m going up there fully focused on Dunfermline and performing. I know that we can go up there and come away with a positive result.”

The Dunfermline fans always create a big atmosphere at a stadium that has witnessed several exciting matches between the two sides and the manager added:-

“Our fans will be in good spirits again after winning at home. It is not too far from here and I’m sure that they will back us in their numbers. There will be a good crowd for their first home game, their first chance to see some of their new signings at home. They took 3500 to Arbroath so they are a well backed club. 

“I have played there often enough. I have played there, coached and I have managed there often enough to know that they get behind their players but it’s games like that we want. Give me that ahead of Meadowbank, no disrespect to Edinburgh City but I’d rather be going to Tannadice if I’m honest. Hopefully we can turn the journey back down the road into a very good journey for our fans as well.”

Despite reports of players expected to sign for Dunfermline there was nothing to confirm on that front when James spoke at lunchtime on Thursday, he said that it doesn’t concern him that time might be running out on capturing certain players:-

“We have a clear structure here in what we are doing. It is no secret that we have put a couple of offers out. One hasn’t been accepted yet, one was knocked back. We have made offers to players so it does not concern me that time is running out in terms of the window shutting because those two are free agents so can do that whenever.

“Ideally I would have liked to have had my squad in for the first day of the season but I have never, in my fifth year in management, had a settled squad going into the first game of the season. It always seems to take shape when there is about a minute and a half of the window to go for some reason. I hate that but it’s the way football is. 

“I’m not concerned by it. If I was sitting here with Matty Todd, Deniz Mehmet and Kane Ritchie-Hosler in my squad I’d be sitting saying ‘I’m pretty happy with exactly what I have got.” That’s not the case but even before that we were looking and we will continue to look. 

“I think it has been pretty slow across the board everywhere in the UK actually, when you do look at it. I’m more concerned about Tannadice on Saturday and our training session tomorrow. That’s me being honest. The offers go out and if the player wants to come and they decide that they want to take the offer, if they don’t, we move on to the next target.”

James confirmed that former St Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon is still training with Dunfermline and commented on the offer that had been made to the 33 year old:-

“We believe that we put in a fair offer for what our football club can do. David is an international footballer, who most recently played in the Gold Cup and not so long ago was at the World Cup so he is quite right to explore his options. What we can’t do is wait about.

“As much as you have got targets and offers to people there are always other targets. We know that we need to get good quality into the squad but we also don’t want to be reckless with it.”

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