Dunfermline Athletic

Manager on Thursday

Thursday, 21st Jul 2022

21/07/22: JM - “I am looking forward to the first Saturday game out there as the manager of this football club. Hopefully it is a good day and ends well.”

Speaking at lunchtime James McPake confirmed that he and his side are all set for Saturday’s final Group C match in this season’s Premier Sports Cup and he is keen that it is not the last involvement in it for this season:-

"It`s been a good week. The players again have worked really hard, it`s been a productive week - going Saturday to Saturday. It`s the first time that`s happened. It gives you a lot of time on the training pitch with the players and that’s been good.”

On Tuesday night James was at the Indodrill Stadium to watch Ross County record a 2-0 away win over the Pars next opponents and concluded that Alloa were unlucky not to come away with something:-

“They missed a penalty, hit the post, and caused Ross County a lot of problems. It`s going to be a tough game and, not only that, we need to be right. Our levels need to be the way they were against Ross County, otherwise it`s going to be a long afternoon, but we`ll be okay.”

Dunfermline Athletic have made it through to the final of the Scottish League Cup on three occasions, the first in season 1949-1950 and the last in 2005-2006. While no one is placing any pressure on the current side to make it to Hampden, progressing to the knock out stage of the Premier Sports Cup would create a great feel-good factor ahead of the start of the league campaign a week on Saturday but the manager also feels the competition takes undue criticism:-

"I know it`s early in the season but it`s been five or six years now that this has been the format. Some clubs do use it as pre season but it`s one of two major cup competitions we`ve got in this country. It`s a really important competition.

"I said it on my first day, so I`m not going to change because we`ve lost a game, it`s vitally important we give ourselves the best chance to get through. I`m disappointed with the result in Dingwall because that means we can only get nine points.”

Most times nine points would be enough but this season is slightly different since only of the best three runners up go through:-

“Hopefully with our goal difference - if we can put a good performance on on Saturday, get the three points - we`re giving ourselves a really good chance of going through. That`s all we can do.

"It will be massive for the football club if we get through. We want good cup runs, we want to be involved in the latter stages of the cups. I quite like it. I`d probably say this differently at certain times because it does put a lot of pressure on games, but that`s what we want. I would much rather be playing in the cup than playing friendlies.”

James McPake shares most fans opinions on friendlies in that it seems he hates them as well:-

“I know they serve a purpose. It`s to get players up to speed, but I believe you still have enough time to do that and then get into the cup. You look at Aberdeen, for example, who under Jim Goodwin have come out flying and have maximum points at the minute - just to pick one team.

"There are others there, Premiership teams, that haven`t progressed but I don`t think anybody deep down can say it`s not a meaningful competition. It`s a huge competition in this country. Just look at the teams that have had joy winning it. The team we played on Saturday won it a few years ago in Ross County. It`s a big competition and we want to go through."

Even though there was 1-0 reverse last Saturday there are already signs that last season`s disappointment can be swiftly archived. James pointed out:-

"Even the Ross County game we`ve seen progress. Without sounding bad about this, I`m genuinely not bothered about what went on last season. It`s been a fresh start since we come in the door. To be fair to the players, again it`s not going back on last season, but the players have responded to what we`ve asked them to do. They`ve been excellent, that`s what gets taken away a lot of the time when a new staff goes in.

"The players deserve all the credit, in my opinion. Everything we`ve asked them to do, whether we work on conditioning or gym work or on the training pitch, going through what we believe is going to make us successful, they`ve bought right into it.

“Any credit deserves to go to the players, which always does anyway. And they deserve it, they`re the ones who go on to the pitch at 3 o`clock or 7.45pm, when they cross that line it`s up to them. To a man everybody that`s been involved has been excellent.

"It`s good seeing it. It`s good seeing the work that we`re doing transferring on to a Saturday or a Tuesday. To win this game will be a real bonus and then we`ll wait and see what happens. If for whatever reason we don`t go through then we`ve been very unfortunate but then you look back and say `we`re you unfortunate or were you just not clinical enough in Dingwall?`. Hopefully that`s not the case.

“We can`t overlook Alloa either, particularly seeing them on video and live the other night - they were excellent in the game and it`s going to be a tough game. We want that, we want, particularly at home, we need to take the game to the opposition and be on the front foot. Like we were in Dingwall for stages of the game - and make it a tough afternoon for Alloa."

Momentum is everything and even though this game will not have any bearing on the first league game also at home to Alloa Athletic James would like to see that momentum work in his favour:-

“If I am right, I believe this club has went through every year in the group stages. Then last season they had a poor start in the league. That just goes to show, it`s happened to myself as a manager - when you go through and then you don`t win your first game.

“We`re in a bit of a weird situation, it`s Alloa then Alloa, both at home. Final cup game and then a league game. That`s different, but I don`t think this game will have any bearing. The two XIs will be different. This Saturday and next Saturday the squads will come into play. Alloa played on Tuesday night, so how have they recovered, have they got injuries that we don`t know about? That can clear itself up for next week, I believe they`ve got a couple coming back from injury. We`re healthy, we`re fresh.

“We can`t even look at the league because we`re taking this cup really seriously. We`ve got a big task on Saturday first and foremost then after Saturday we can focus on the league again, which then becomes our main priority - until hopefully the next round of the Premier Sports Cup comes around."

This week has been the first since kicking off with the pre season friendly against Cove Rangers that James can call what he expects to be a ‘normal’ week with no midweek games and Saturday fixtures. His focus has been on the Alloa match but revealed that he is still busy working on bringing in players although the extra down time has not so far yielded any new faces. He described how time marches on:-

“The only time my phone is not on me and not answering calls is the two times in a week on the training pitch or at games. Downtime probably makes me answer more calls. If you get a day off, I have learned that it is not really a day off on this side of it. I am a bit better than I was in my previous job where I was 24 hours a day, I am done to about nineteen now. I get the five hours sleep that I didn’t used to get.”

The Pars manager predicted that we are reaching the stage in the transfer window where everyone can expect to see now a lot more happening:-

“You see a lot of movement now. Other sides are signing players and loan players will start coming to the fore now Premiership clubs are all back. They are all now at the point where they might be sending their good young players out on loan. What we cannot do is panic and rush into signings, they have got to be the right ones and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I am not going to change saying that because that is what we will do - we will pick the right players who can add to that group and we will certainly add to it.”

So does he have a number in mind? With a smile he replied:-

“My number will be different from the board and the owners. I would say twenty, just to have a lovely big squad like they do in England. All over the pitch or all through the squad we know that we are light.

“I am against filling it with players just for the sake of saying that we are going out to sign someone, there has to be a process. I know that it is frustrating and hard for people to hear when we keep saying that we are working really hard, but we are. Agents are on the phone all the time and we have got players that we are looking at and trying to deal with through agents at the same time.

“It has been weird this transfer window and I have heard other managers speaking about it as well. I don’t know the reason but it will start to free up and you will see a bit of movement, we will certainly add.”

Talking about player availability for Saturday James confirmed no change for this weekend:-

“Kyle Benedictus has recovered and Graham Dorrans is not far away either, he is looking really good and is at the end stage of his rehab now. He is taking part in little bits and pieces. He is a fantastic player when he does take part. He will be like another person on the pitch for us with his experience and the way he speaks, he is a good footballer.

Timescale on Graham Dorrans?

“I hate doing this but I would say that within the next couple of weeks he would be back out there. Certainly he will be back in full training hopefully by the end of next week. Maybe available for the second league match, I will not rule him out.

“I have known him for a while and I know the way that he can work. He showed last season when he came back from an ankle injury that he is willing to go through the pain. Again we will not be reckless with it.

“With any injury you have to look after them because whether it is Benedictus, Dorrans or Matty Todd or younger ones, we would never be careless or reckless. They are human beings at the end of the day but from the club’s point of view we want them fit and ready. We don’t want to put them in for a game and then miss six. I say that until it comes to a huge game!

“We have a good medical team and I have really been impressed with all the staff at the club. It has been good but now we need to go out and show that we can play the way that we did against Ross County, at home against Alloa or whoever.

“Benedictus is great, he has been excellent since he came in a real leader. I probably jumped the gun a wee bit in taking him off, he said to me on the bus that he could have stayed on up at Dingwall. There were two reasons for that - I didn’t want to take a risk with him and b) be reckless when I didn’t know what it was, and chasing a game it was a chance to quickly make a change and be more attack minded.

“It didn’t come off in the end, it should have because we had a enough chances late on in the game. It showed against a Premiership side that you can make changes and they can affect the game. It is a small squad but in that small squad we have real quality, but we know that we need to add.”

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