Manager on FridayFriday, 24th Jun 2022
24/06/22: JMc - “We have a batch of young players that we believe we can help because the groundwork has been done but we need to now help turn them into first team players.
Dunfermline manager James McPake claims that he and his newly appointed assistant manager, Dave Mackay, have a way of working that can be used to produce results at the Pars. They believe it worked well at Dundee and James said that comes as a result of a history together:-
“I have known him from away way back since we played together at Livingston. We are delighted to bring Dave into the football club and I think the players will respond to that as well. He will bring a difference in character, a calmness. He has really good people skills which is important and the trust to give you clear sound opinions, advice whatever.”
For almost four seasons James and Dave played together while at Livingston and they were together as the management team at Dundee for more than 70 matches together. James revealed that Dave would have been his preferred choice of partner all along and that wasn’t for the first time:-
“He was even when I got the Dundee job. It is difficult because he was in a job and they are a league above us. I had a couple of conversations with different people and it was tough when I was being asked about the assistant’s role the people that I wanted to talk about were in jobs. You obviously don’t speak to the ones who are in a job but through time whatever happened to Dave at Dundee happened and I am delighted with that because it allowed me to get him in here.”
Dave Mackay has been a manager in his own right at Stirling Albion from November 2016 until September 2018 and he gained experience from that as well. James found that useful in the past and pointed out that Dave would be the first to say that his Stirling experience helped him:-
“We are both young with plenty of enthusiasm for the job, we want to be better coaches, better managers whatever. We are at a different club now and are excited with the prospect.”
James claimed it was great to have Dave back alongside him and views his arrival as an important addition to his backroom staff and went on to praise all his new close contacts at the club:
“Alan Main has come in which is fantastic as have the staff and everyone been at the club since I joined. The first couple of weeks were tough being a new person coming into an environment trying to build relationships. Greg Shields, Tommy the physio, Greeny, Dave Honeyman, Monti, even Margaret Miller - I have probably missed people out but they have all been fantastic with me.
“That has been genuine since I came in and they have made it easy for me. Managing up the way you are doing stuff with the Board of Directors and David Cook. It has been easy so far but we have not played a game in earnest yet!”
The manager explained that Dave Mackay is a different character, he is not just a calming influence on him but he will calm the players down as well. There are different parts of the game that they will coach and split into groups where necessary. James likes the involvement with the players, he likes to coach and likes to be on the training pitch taking training. He expanded on what he believes Dave can bring:-
“He has a desire inside him to make players better and both of us share that vision particularly for young players. We want to make them better and that is great for what is building, with the academy and with Greg Shields.
“We have a batch of young players that we believe we can help because the groundwork has been done but we need to now help turn them into first team players. At Dundee we had players who made the step up from the under 18s to playing games for the first team, looking back that is my biggest achievement and that is including a promotion to the Premiership.
“I will class having nine debuts and 106 appearances as my biggest contribution to that football club. I believe those players will go on to have fantastic careers, that side of it is good and we need to do that here. That is one of Dave’s strengths, working with the younger group and he has also got the tools to deal with the older players as well.”
A reluctance to blood young players in the first team is not something that cannot be labelled against them. They freely admit that sometimes it has worked and sometimes it has not and James recalled a Dundee match in January 2020 at East End Park where he took Lyall Cameron off at half time:-
“We got beat 2-0 by a very good Dunfermline side that night. Dunfermline were excellent, they made us look poor and I took Lyall off to protect him because the senior players were not helping him that night.
“That will happen here. There will be a time to put them in and a time when we need to protect them. From the fans’ point of view there is nothing better than seeing young academy players playing out there and certainly from a manager’s point of view, having worked in the academy side of it, it is great. Seeing the enthusiasm they have got to learn, they pick up everything and Dave will help with that as well. They are real sponges right now and they just want to learn and be footballers.
“You have the group that are established and the ones who have been at the top level of the game. So you have a real good mix in there but everyone can help the younger ones.”
Where are you with player recruitment?
“It is non stop and some clubs are only starting back this week. It is great that we have got the groundwork into our players and we are back working but a lot of work goes into signing a player. The two that we have brought in I believe will be great additions, they did well in the bounce game on Tuesday night and they will feature at the weekend. We know that we need to add more.”
How many more? “I will say as many as possible but I’m realistic, I know where we are. We have quality young players but we need to be covered with a depth and strength in the squad because we are going into a really tough league. We are under no illusions about that so we need to get it right on the recruitment side.
“There are certain areas that everyone will know need addressed. For example we have four strikers who can play number nine but in certain areas we have not got players to fill positions. We are actively working to bring those players in and the ones we have got we are working to get them fit.
“It is vitally important that we get it right because there are restrictions on the budget and everything that comes with the previous season and we know we are living in a world that has been financially hit all over the place. We need to get that right but we are excited with what we have got here.”
The first pre season friendly took place against Hill of Beath on Tuesday night and James felt that there was a lot to take from the match other than the 3-0 scoreline:-
“It was great that Jason Dair took the game in the end but fans look at it from a different viewpoint, they just want to know the result. Come 9th July that is what we are looking for too.”
Even after Tuesday night and looking ahead to the match against Cove Rangers on Saturday the players were pushed this week with running and double sessions or gym sessions in the afternoons.
“They are going into games tired. There is nothing wrong with that, we can always push them. That is what we need to do and we are doing that, pushing them really hard.
“You hear about the little niggles but that is only natural. After a couple of days with the physio they come back out to join the group. I am really impressed with the way they keep up the tempo. They played 45 minutes each apart from Deniz (Mehmet) and Sam Young. They trained really hard on Monday and showed that they can go into a game.
“There will be more ideas going into the Cove game and the Forfar game in what we are looking for tactically. That game was just about minutes and then as we go along we will implement our ideas. Everything is focussed on 9th July against Stevie Crawford’s East Fife team.”
James is pleased with the fitness of the squad members he currently has and with one exception they are fit for the pre season matches:-
“We are getting there and touch wood we have been healthy. Graham Dorrans has picked up an injury on his ankle that we are assessing and monitoring. There are another couple of pre season injuries, blisters and whatnot but that comes from pushing players hard and seeing how hard they want to go.
“I have been delighted with them. I am not surprised because I know some of the characters. I know Kyle Benedictus, I know Chris Hamilton and I have worked with Craig Wighton. It is good to see him working as hard and he needs to know that he can reach this level.
“Now we are starting to touch on the tactical side. We are getting there and the players are probably moaning in the dressing room about the work but I don’t mind that. They are doing it and they are certainly not shy of hard work.”
Graham Dorrans left ankle has been scanned and he is using a protective moon boot but that is normal procedure in the first week of an ankle injury.
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