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Can McPake take Dundee back up?

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hislopsoffsideagain

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At the end of April, as relegation - and the departure of Jim McIntyre - became increasingly certain, Dundee issued a statement on their website to reassure fans about the present and the future. Among the topics touched upon was the process used to appoint McIntyre.

"This process starts with consulting our continuously maintained working list of potential candidates for analysis of multiple criteria. This list is purely statistical, allowing us to see how many games have been managed, at what level, and what the win percentages are at that time.  Then we start to rank the managers based on those criteria.  Recently we had changed our philosophy of bringing on younger, inexperienced managers to ones that have had over 300 matches in charge and a win percentage at a level around 40%.  We then take into account what else they have achieved, saving clubs from relegation, winning trophies and how they have managed their recruiting process."
Following McIntyre's exit, Managing Director John Nelms confirmed that, essentially, the next manager would be recruited using similar criteria. That is presumably how the club came to the conclusion that John Robertson should be invited to interview; according to Caley Thistle they approached Robertson first - who turned them down then grassed them up to his employer - and then felt the need to phone Caley Thistle the next day anyway to ask for permission, which was of course declined.

On the one hand that account should be taken with a pinch of salt, as ICT's new Chief Operating Officer has 'history' with Dundee. But their cackhanded attempt to recruit St. Mirren's Jack Ross two summers ago - having ignored the Buddies' objections, they flew out to Spain to meet him on holiday, and he rebuffed them - suggests that there may be a grain of truth in there.

And so from that criteria and a huge number of applicants, the Dark Blues have appointed...Academy coach James McPake, who currently has one match under his belt as a manager (as caretaker for the last game of the season) and a win percentage of zero.

Whether McPake was even the first choice is open to debate. It has been reported that Dundee had agreed compo with Alloa for Jim Goodwin, who did a frankly extraordinary job to keep the part-time Wasps in the Championship last season and who certainly deserves a crack at a full-time job. But rumour has it that Goodwin pulled out because the club were not happy that he wanted to keep his assistant from Alloa rather than appoint 'an experienced head' to work with him.

Given that McIntyre undoubtedly suffered from not having his preferred number two Billy Dodds beside him due to a fan backlash over Dodds' history with the club, it would certainly be interesting if the board chose to interfere in this way. Regardless, McPake has ended up with Jimmy Nicholl. If you looked up 'experienced assistant manager' in the dictionary you'd probably find a picture of Nicholl.

Gordon Strachan is also involved in an advisory capacity. One hopes that this will not include giving McPake lessons on dealing with the media.

But there's no getting around it - Dundee drop into the Championship with a rookie manager and at the time of writing just nine players aged over 21. That number includes 39 year old Kenny Miller and 34 year old Andrew Davies (who has been injured since he arrived in January and who eschewed the chance to play in this division for Ross County) as well as club player of the year Nathan Ralph who is set to exploit a relegation clause in his contract to return to England.

So McPake has some recruiting to do, and quickly. And there's no question that he is at high risk of experiencing the same problems that Dundee United, Inverness and Partick Thistle did in recent years following relegation: a huge squad turnover (with, in the case of the former two, a new boss as well) and a dicey start as an essentially new team takes time to gel and which is exacerbated by the pressure of poor early results. That is presumably one of the areas where Dundee hope Strachan can provide significant aid.

The flip side is that he will not be left short on the budget front. Since Nelms and Tim Keyes, with their consortium FPS, took over the club in 2013 they have been generous financially - for the first five seasons losses have totalled £2.3m despite the sale of players like Kane Hemmings, Greg Stewart and Jack Hendry for decent fees. Expect a further financial hit following this nightmare season, and another for the upcoming Championship campaign with the massive costcutting and reduced income that it entails.

They've also been remarkably patient despite a constant failure by Paul Hartley, Neil McCann and finally McIntyre to meet the targets (usually a top six finish) that have been set and budgeted for. Luckily for the fans these are not egotistic, unscrupulous owners who interfere above their station and are looking to make a quick buck. They simply appear to be honking at appointing managers.

Maybe they've struck it lucky this time with McPake. And optimistic supporters can point to the success of Ross County's homegrown duo of Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell as a sign that appointing from within can work. But they got to work with the bulk of the squad that went down, and competed with a Dundee United side that took six months to sort themselves out. McPake faces a far harder task this coming season. Will he be up to it?


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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