Challenging times and a fresh startThursday, 23rd Jun 2022
DM - “We have to make sure that what we put on the pitch is a representation of Dunfermline, a team that’s young, hungry, energetic and just try to win games again.
Last weekend when Dave Mackay decided he wanted to move on from Dundee, James McPake became aware of that. He hadn’t filled his assistant’s vacancy at Dunfermline and given that the two work well together it was no surprise that the St Johnstone 2014 cup winning captain was re-united with his old boss at East End Park. Dave said “it’s good to be back working together” and he revealed how the reunion came about:-
“I’m good mates with James and I obviously congratulated him when he got the job. At that stage, there was never a discussion about myself coming in because, with Dunfermline being a League One club and Dundee having just come out of the Premiership, we didn’t think it would be something that would be a goer.”
Indeed Dundee wanted to keep Dave and he had positive discussions with the new Dens manager, Gary Bowyer. The former boss at Blackburn, Blackpool, Bradford City and Salford City had a couple of good chats with Dave and the plan was for him to stay:-
“He seemed like a real top guy, he was great with me and was asking about certain players and I was messaging back and forwards while I was away on holiday. I had a bit of time to think while I was away and I just felt it was probably the right thing for everyone - for them included, as well as myself - for me to move on.”
Of course Dave had been at Dundee as assistant to James and then under Mark McGhee and Simon Rusk as well. He loved working with both of them and was confident that it would have worked out well under Gary but after due consideration he just felt it was probably right for him to move on, with Gary bringing in Bobby Barr as his assistant:-
“I think it will benefit them as well. So, I think I fresh start for everyone was probably in everyone’s best interests” claimed Dave. His own fresh start at Dunfermline comes with a challenge where he believes that the club’s fortunes can be turned around:-
“It’s a good club. Again, we can’t turn round and say we don’t deserve to be in League One but results last season proved that they weren’t good enough. It’s a club that can progress, it can play at a higher level, there’s no doubt about that. But you never win games off the back of history or the stuff that goes on off the park or the amount of fans you get into a stadium.
“We have to make sure that what we put on the pitch is a representation of Dunfermline, a team that’s young, hungry, energetic and just try to win games again. I’ve just experienced it at Dundee last season. We had a tough year and didn’t win many games, and once you’re in a slump like that it’s difficult to get out of it.
“So, this is a fresh start for all the players. A new manager has come in, everybody starts with a clean slate and they’ll have a chance to impress. We’ll look to bring a few players in to improve the squad or add to the squad, but from what I’ve seen in the first couple of days I’m excited by what’s in the dressing room. It’s a young team full of energy and enthusiasm and I think it’s one we can progress.”
The newly appointed assistant manager feels that Dunfermline just require a bit of momentum and things will start going their way, get a few breaks and go on runs:-
“We need to try and get some of that. We need to get some positivity back about the place, in terms of the players who were here last season especially. It was a tough year for them, so the quicker we can get a positive attitude and get good results on the board then things can change quickly and hopefully we can get off to a flyer this season.”
The 41 year old assistant has a good relationship with James McPake but Dave accepts that it his part of his job to try to challenge his decisions for the benefit of the team:-
“I do think we work well together. Of course, you do get disagreements from time to time and a few wee arguments but I think that’s healthy as well. There’s no point in me just sitting there and agreeing with everything the manager does. I would be cheating myself and everybody else if I was doing that.
“So, he knows himself that at times I will challenge him and we will disagree on things. Ultimately, he’s the manager and he makes the main decision in the end, but I’ve got to challenge him and make him think about things - whether I even agree with it or not. Sometimes you just do it to throw a wee curveball in there, just to get him thinking.
“He knows that I’ll challenge him and I’ll speak my mind to him - just because we’ve got that sort of relationship, we’ve known each other for that long that we know that much about each other. We’ve got a lot of the same beliefs and thoughts on how we want to play. I’m excited to hook back up with again and hopefully we can be successful as we were in the first couple of seasons at Dundee.”
Dave’s first real steps into a coaching role were with the St Johnstone under-20s in the 2015-2016 season just after he retired from playing. He helped out there with Alex Cleland and it was a great experience and a good grounding. The fruits of that St Johnstone youth set up are now well known names:-
“It was a good time to work with some of them. You see the likes of Lewis McCann’s brother Ali, who has ended up being a full international and playing down at Preston. He’s been the pick, so far to come through, although there’s Jason Kerr as well and he captained them to a cup double and got a move to Wigan. There were a lot of good players there at that time, who have broken through and made it. Liam Gordon was another and Aaron Comrie was there as well, Dave recalled:-
“I worked with him before he came here. Aaron probably had a tough year last season, but I know what he can do and what type of player he is and can be. If you get him going you’ve got a right good player on your hands as well.”
Dave shares James McPake’s ambition to develop young players at Dunfermline as well:-
“I think that’s got to be the plan for most Scottish teams, really. When you don’t have the finances of the Old Firm and teams like that, you have to bring through your own players.
“From what I’ve seen in the first two or three days, there’s some good young players at this club. Some younger ones below them who are not yet ready but it’s up to us and Greg Shields in the youth system to bring through these players and hopefully get them into the first-team and establish them there, with a view to moving players on as well.
“As much as you want them to break into your first-team, you want them to be good enough to move on and, as a club, to make money from them to invest in the next batch coming through.
“James worked with the youth team for a few years at Dundee and brought through an awful lot of young ones who made their debuts, and some of them established themselves as first-team regulars. That’s what we hope to do with these guys. But they have to prove they’re good enough first. We’re not just going to chuck them in if we don’t think they’re ready. If they’re good enough they will play.”
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