James McPake has revealed that ‘superstitious’ Gordon Strachan could not bear to watch Dundee’s playoff final showdown against Kilmarnock.
The former Scotland manager has been a pivotal sounding board for McPake and his assistant, Dave Mackay, through an often testing campaign in his role as Dens Park technical director.
However, that support has been from afar on match-days, with the 64-year-old coming to believe he was bringing the Dee bad luck by attending games last term.
And the vastly experienced coach went one step further as the Dundee’s promotion bid went to the wire, by avoiding the fixtures on TV.
“Gordon [Strachan] didn’t watch the playoff games, which was a bit surreal — and quite humbling if I’m honest,” McPake told former Dundee midfielder Si Ferry on Open Goal.
“He was driving about in his car because he was too nervous!
“Gordon is superstitious and we weren’t winning games when he was coming. Then we picked up form when he didn’t come, so Gordon thought we had struggled because of him.
“He started watching them on the TV and then by the end he wasn’t even doing that because he was so nervous.”
Nevertheless, McPake has nothing but praise for Strachan’s influence, adding: “Dave [Mackay] and myself are pretty inexperienced in this side of the game and having Gordon was massive, particularly in the really bad moments.
“I don’t want to make it seem like I only picked the phone up in the bad moments, because he is the first on the phone when we win, but having him there has been a real blessing.”
The cathartic outpouring of delight when Dundee finally secured their top-flight return was ably illustrated by footage of Jason Cummings swinging from a chandelier in inimitable fashion.
“I’ve known Jason since he was a kid [at Hibs],” said McPake. “And he still just acts like a kid.
“I had to separate him and Paul McGowan and keep them as far away from each other as possible! That would have been mayhem. Swinging from chandeliers and impersonating team-talks — that’s just Jason.
“But he’ll have a big part to play for us next season.”
Asked whether he has a different perspective on his own playing days, given he is now the man attempting to herd cats at time, he smiled: “I do. One of my players, Cammy Kerr . . . I almost set him on fire once.
“And you are thinking: ‘Now, I’ve got to shout at him.’”
— Alan Temple (@alanftemple) May 24, 2021
However, the only flames McPake was concerned with come the season finale at Rugby Park were the fireworks set off in the aftermath of Dundee’s win over Killie.
“It was pure joy when the whistle blew,” added McPake. “I hadn’t won anything in football — I’ve been beaten in cup finals — and when I sobered up a few days later I said: ‘Thank God for that!’”