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NEWS: Dundee manager James McPake says his stars must thrive on pressure from fans to win every game in the Championship this season

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Dundee manager James McPake says his stars must thrive on pressure from fans to win every game in the Championship this season.

The Dark Blues – second in the betting stakes to 1/8 favourites Hearts – wants players and staff at Dens Park to embrace expectations during the 2020/21 campaign which kicks off against the Jambos at Tynecastle on October 17.

He said: “We’re trying to get promoted and get out of this league.

“We want to be in the Premiership. We want the Dundee derby in the Premiership.

“That’s the big aim for this club. That expectation was the same last season as it is this season

“We’re a year in the job – have we learned a lot? Absolutely. We need to keep learning.

“There’s pressure, there’s expectation. It’s the same for the staff and the players and the fans.

“There’s an expectation that you need to win every game in this league and they’re not happy if you don’t, rightly so.

“The pressure’s good, we want the pressure. That’s why you want to be involved in first-team football.

“The day the pressure goes, you’re out of a job.”

McPake, 36, looked ahead to the new season in a wide-ranging YouTube interview with Dundee Stars general manager and head coach Omar Pacha.

He also reflected on the challenges presented by the football shutdown, coaching the next generation and his relationship with owner Tim Keyes and John Nelms.

It’s been a turbulent summer at Dens Park due to financial hardship caused by the absence of football because of Covid-19.

Dundee have been forced to make cutbacks at first-team and academy level – with No2 Jimmy Nicholl among those to depart – while captain Josh Meekings and star striker Kane Hemmings left after rejecting reduced terms accepted by the senior squad.

McPake has added Lee Ashcroft, Danny Mullen and Alex Jakubiak to the group while transfer talks with ex-Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam, a boyhood Dee fan, are ongoing.

The Dens gaffer, who praised the fans for their fundraising efforts during tough times, said: “The owners have been fantastic with me as a player then as a coach and a manager. They back every manager.

“I can confidently say that because I’ve been here. Paul (Hartley), Neil (McCann) and Jim (McIntyre).

“There’s backing there and it’s up to the manager and the staff to do the job on the pitch and get the right recruitment.

“The backing is always there and that will continue. I’m delighted with it.

“I wasn’t expecting anything different because I’ve seen how they worked with other managers and being able to see that has helped me.

“I’ve lived through some good times and bad times at the football club. I’ve experienced quite a lot here.”

McPake’s men made their long-awaited return to training last Monday after nearly six months on the sidelines.

The Dark Blues manager – who said the lockdown was “really tough” at times – admits he was blown away by their conditioning.

He said: “The players went on furlough like most industries. They had (fitness) programmes but they were voluntary.

“To see them doing that and coming back in the condition they came back in this week was excellent.

“It’s credit to each and every one of them. We’re proud of them for dealing with the situation so well.

“It was different when I played – you used pre-season to get fit. Nowadays they come back in great condition and that’s a bonus.

“This year’s the best I’ve ever seen them coming back. We had five months off. Maybe we expected a little lapse but it never came.

“That’s a credit to the people we’ve got at the football club.”

Video analysis was at the heart of McPake’s workload during the shutdown after a stuttering 2019/20 campaign that saw Dundee finish third after a late revival.

The end to the season, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, could not have happened at a worse time for his side.

Dundee owners Tim Keyes, left, and John Nelms.
Dundee owners Tim Keyes, left, and John Nelms.

They had gone six matches unbeaten and kept five clean sheets in a row.

He said: “There was a lot of video – great credit to the staff we have here.

“We were picking up on certain things that worked, things that didn’t work and how we’re going to improve that going forward.

“There was a lot of time spent on Zoom.”

He added: “I said when I took the job (in May 2019) that I wanted us to have a team the fans could be proud of.

“I think we were getting there towards the end of the season, which was March.

“We want fans back and we want them going away from our games proud that they’re Dundee fans.”

Technology and data has changed the football world dramatically in recent years and the former Livingston and Hibs stopper has embraced it.

He said: “I think it’s much better now. The players get everything about their performance on a Saturday night.

“They see every touch they’ve had of the ball. That wasn’t there when I started out.

“With communication and how you speak to people, it is different. It’s a shift in culture, just everything’s changed over time.

“I still do believe that every player’s different.

“We have a kid, Fin Robertson, who you can coach and speak to like he’s been in the game for years.

“But you might have a senior player that you need to spend a little bit more time with.

“Everybody’s different and as a coaching staff you’ve got to identify that.

“Some things work for certain players but you might need to adjust it for another group or another player That’s a challenge of being a coach.”

Dundee’s transfer pursuit of ex-Liverpool and Scotland ace Charlie Adam hailed by Dark Blues captain Jordan McGhee

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