Dundee manager James McPake has revealed Craig Levein tried to take him to Dundee United.
McPake – discussing his playing career on the Evening Telegraph’s Twa Teams, One Street podcast – says United were one of three top-flight teams in Scotland who wanted to sign him on a free transfer in 2009 as he prepared to leave Livingston.
But he opted for Coventry in the English Championship and has no regrets about the decision.
The 35-year-old said: “I met Craig Levein, who at the time was the manager at Dundee United. I was free to talk to clubs.
“I spoke to Mark McGhee at Motherwell and Gus MacPherson at St Mirren.
“The chance to go to England and play for that club [Coventry] came up and it was a no-brainer really.
“My agent and I sat down…we didn’t need to think about it.
“There were other reasons why it was more beneficial for me – you’re trying to make a living in your career.
“I had three top-flight teams up here who I had the chance to go to.
“Lee Wilkie was at Dundee United at the time. I remember Craig saying that he would be one of the people I’d be coming in to try and play beside.
“That was the three teams interested but thankfully I chose Coventry.
“I really enjoyed the experience of playing and living in England. I was down there at 24.
“I think I played my best football at Coventry.”
The Dark Blues gaffer and Hearts legend Levein would cross paths again years later, this time with international football on the agenda.
But for McPake and Scotland, it wasn’t meant to be and he ended up being capped by Northern Ireland and Michael O’Neill.
He said: “I was at Coventry and Craig Levein was Scotland manager at the time.
“Michael McBride, our physio, worked with me at Livingston and he was the national team physio.
“He’d be telling me, ‘They’re down watching you’.
“A few times I was really close. I was desperate to just get in and experience it.
“But it got to the point that Michael O’Neill heard I could play with Northern Ireland [through a Coleraine-born grandparent].
“He called Allan Preston [football agent] and Alan called me.
“I said, ‘Can you ask Craig what the chances with Scotland would be?’ To be fair to Craig, he said, ‘I’d never say it’s a definite no but if he’s got the chance to play international football then I’d take it’.
“Without saying ‘definitely no’, he definitely did say no!
“I’ve still got mixed emotions about it. My dad wasn’t too sure, he didn’t want me to do it.
“Other people advised me to do it and I had some great trips. I got one cap but I was in the squad seven or eight times.
“Getting to train with people like Jonny Evans, Steven Davis…I loved the training and I loved the trips.
“I would’ve liked to get more game time but it was causing a problem to my back and ultimately that’s why I stopped.”
He made his Northern Ireland debut in a 6-0 hammering at the hands of the Netherlands on June 2, 2012, just weeks after his Hibs side were beaten 5-1 by Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final.
McPake – who came up against Dutch stars Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie – said: “It wasn’t like a normal friendly, it was mayhem.
“The Amsterdam Arena was packed. I’m looking at it and going, ‘Wow’.
“I think in that two weeks, with the Scottish Cup Final and then that game, I got beat 11-1 on aggregate.
“I had a week in Dubai between that so I suppose that makes up for it.”
McPake is approaching six years at Dens Park, after initially joining as a player in May 2014, and he didn’t envisage such a long spell at the club.
He said: “If I did, I’d be living in Dundee or somewhere around about there. I often say that to Dawn [wife]. I love it up there.
“In terms of players, Cammy [Kerr] was there – he was only a young boy. Gowser [Paul McGowan] signed at the same time as me.
“It’s genuinely the best club I’ve worked with in terms of all the people there. It’s good going into work…when we’re doing okay!
“It’s a friendly place and it’s a good club.”