James McPake would never talk down the importance of the Dundee derby – he’s had too many extreme highs and lows in these games to do that.
However, from his days wearing a dark blue shirt, the Dundee boss knows there can be even bigger achievements than beating Dundee United and that’s what he’ll be telling his players this week.
The obvious derby low for James came on January 2, 2016 when his career was ended as he suffered a horrific knee injury as he slid in to tackle United’s John Rankin.
The highs came via two goals, one in a long overdue Dee win at Dens, the other a dramatic and memorable last-gasp equaliser at Tannadice.
For him, though, the best of his time at the heart of the defence came elsewhere.
McPake said: “The highlight of my time as a player here was the first season, finishing in the top six and the second year when a better team, in my opinion, finished seventh.
“It played some real good football and Kane (Hemmings) and Greg (Stewart) that season were unplayable. The highlight is over the period, meeting and playing with some fantastic players.”
And as he prepares to take them to Tannadice on Friday, that’s a message he’ll be passing on to the squad he’s in charge of now.
“I think we’ve said from the start nothing will be won or lost just now, regardless of what happens in the match for either team.
“Throw in Ayr United, Inverness and forgive me if I’m missing others out but there will be a lot of teams challenging come March, April and into May. We want to be one of them.”
That said, he does not hide how much he is looking forward to the biggest game of the season, so far, and, despite those mixed memories, it’s a fixture he relishes.
“I’d say the highlight in a derby was here when we beat them 3-1, I think for the first time in 11 years.
“It was a big night for our fans because we were 1-0 up, they got back into the game but we got back in front.
“It’s the goal that never gets spoken about, but it’s my favourite goal for Dundee, the header.
“I know why everyone loved the one down there (the equaliser at Tannadice) because we were 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go. It’s the nature of football.
“Down there it was great because we were out the game so it felt like a win because we were 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go away from home.
“But, if it’s for a goal, if I had to pick one of the two it was the one here.”
Obviously, the injury three-and-half years ago was the low point, though, he is still able to look to the positive long-term outcome.
“I look on the positive side. If that injury hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be leading a team down there this week.
“I would have continued playing and I would have had some good times and some not so good times going through the later stages of my career.
“Was it a blessing in disguise? Well I wouldn’t like to go through that again because it was a horrific time for myself and my family but it helped me get a head start in coaching.”
As for the injury itself, he admits he knew almost immediately how severe it was.
“I’d had bad injuries before but nothing as shocking and as severe as that in terms of the reaction of people around it at the time.
“I have to say, United were fantastic. I remember Ryan McGowan and Sean Dillon in particular, they were great on the day.
“At the time you are in shock, the pain was there and I probably knew within 10 minutes of being in the ambulance heading to hospital my career was over.”