Manager on ThursdayThursday, 17th Nov 2022
17/11/22: JM - “The sole focus is on going up there and getting a positive performance. If we do that we believe we`ll get a positive result,
James McPake’s last visit to Peterhead was as manager of Dundee on Valentines Day 2022 and he remembers how difficult the hosts made the Dark Blues passage into the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup and a home tie against Rangers. He expects it to be no easier for the Pars despite it being the top of the table team against the bottom club.
"To go back to last February I took a Premiership team up there and got through on the night, 3-0 and it was a tough, tough game. Now we`re going up as Dunfermline, one defeat in 15, and all the talk of being top of the league and whatnot, but it`s just this game, it`s tough again. The sole focus is on going up there and getting a positive performance. If we do that we believe we`ll get a positive result, but we need the performance to be right. That`s all we`re focusing on.”
Not only is it bottom v top but in terms of average goals and total goals conceded across all four SPFL divisions it brings together the clubs with the worst and best record as well. There is little likelihood of James taking much notice of that:-
“I think I`m quite consistent when I say this, we do block it out, and we need to block it out. We need to focus solely on Peterhead and forget everything else that`s happening. Forget who is playing who. Just forget everything and focus on Peterhead because it`s going to be a tough, tough game at a tough place to go."
Above: Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall in July 2022
After 15 league games and five cup games it will be just Dunfermline’s second away game on grass. The only grass pitch so far has been at Dingwall in the Premier Sports Cup back in July. The manager is on record before saying that if he had a choice, he would prefer it to be grass but although he does admit that he hated playing on them, he doesn’t buy into the bad press that artificial surfaces often get:-
“Some of them are poor or poorer than certain ones. I did hate playing on them. As I was getting older and I`d had the knee injury and the back injury. I never played on after the knee injury but after the back injury it was more down to the psychological worry of playing on it - ‘What`s this doing for my back?`
"For me it`s never waterlogged. It sometimes gets a wee bit hard if it`s frosty. Some of them are not so good when the ball bounces a bit different. After saying all that I`m delighted to be back on grass!”
James considers that the thinking can be flipped the other way since younger players are now all brought up playing on artificial playing surfaces. He continued:-
“Coming from an academy background, the slide tackle goes away, the getting your body in certain positions goes away - because they`re so used to playing on the artificial surfaces. To a degree the touch at times goes away because the ball does run so true and you`re not having to deal with a heavy or different conditions. There are pros and cons for it, for the younger ones.
“I`m not saying that across academies we`re now developing players that are maybe technically better than the older players, because that`s not true when you look at some of the greats that Scotland have had. We saw a great academy side, or a great B team, out there on Tuesday night that moved the ball great and they train and play most of their games on astro as well. That`s the way it is. The kids now, I think they enjoy it because they`re that used to it, they`re familiar with it, but there`s still also that excitement of walking out on to a great grass pitch like that the other night.
“It`s wet, the ball moves great - and that`s credit to the groundsman - or maybe that`s just my excitement, because when I walk in and you see the pitch with the lights on it, it takes you back to the games you`ve played and you get that wee buzz again.
“It`s something that they`re very comfortable with, the young players. Maybe Benedictus is not as comfortable with it because of his age, he maybe like me worries but he`s played and trained on them for years. People talk about it and I don`t want to say I disagree or agree with people. I`ve got my own opinion on it and for me it`s not an issue."
As far as team news is concerned the manager confirmed that Kevin O’Hara, Lewis McCann and Paul Allan will be missing the trip to Peterhead but Sam Fisher has recovered from the stiffness in his knee following the Celtic B match.
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