James McPake's Dunfermline Athletic Clinch League One Title
James McPake may only be 38 and in the second job of his managerial career, but he already knows all about the peaks and troughs of this cruel and beautiful game.
The Football Careers client, named the Scottish Championship Manager of the Year in 2021, was at a low ebb 14 months ago when he was brutally axed with Dundee sitting second bottom of the Premiership.
On Saturday (15th April) though, James — with FC stablemate Dave Mackay by his side as his trusted assistant boss — was experiencing the highs again as he guided sleeping giants Dunfermline Athletic to a runaway title triumph in Scotland’s League One.
A thrilling 5-0 home win over Queen of the South at East End Park clinched it with three games to spare and McPake was quick to pay tribute to the impact Mackay has made on their championship charge together. He stressed:
“The club were very quick to act on that and get Dave out of Dundee to join me. That was pivotal in what we were trying to do and the players that came in.
“I’d love to sound like a genius and say we did this, we did that, to turn their confidence around but we just worked hard. It’s as simple as that. I genuinely do mean that. We got them in, we worked hard… it was a clean slate for everyone.”
Dunfermline can now relax and enjoy the last three games of the campaign as they plan for life in the Championship, a division McPake has mastered once before.
Many may have seen his choice to join the Pars as a step backwards, but that would be to underestimate the potential in Fife.
The former Livingston, Coventry, Hibs, and Dundee defender has brought a winning mentality back to the Pars and has lost just three games as their boss in a dominant campaign that sees them now 13 points clear of rivals Falkirk in the table. McPake reflected:
“I knew a lot of the players, they were a good group, and we believe in what we do as a coaching staff or a management team.
“We believe in what we do. You hope it’s probably that – you hope the players believe in what you do and follow what you’re doing.
“We were very lucky with the group we got. We added some key additions in Kyle Benedictus, Chris Hamilton, and then some loan players that came in. The way we do it is very demanding but they kept doing it.”
Those who have come through the Scottish FA coaching pathway have massive respect for both McPake and Mackay. They are true football men who offered the same help and encouragement to coaching colleagues from grassroots backgrounds as they did to their fellow pros when they were doing their UEFA qualifications.
That’s why there will be so many in the game in Scotland delighted to see the double act on the up again. Sometimes, good things happen to good people. James admitted he felt Pars were on the rise again, right from pre-season, and he smiled:
“I think we won all of our friendlies apart from Kilmarnock as well. We went in with a standard that we wanted to start winning games because that was lost the season before.
“We did that and it’s ended seven or eight months later with a league winner’s medal for every single player in there. We’re delighted.”