James McPake’s first season as a Dundee player saw the Dark Blues finish in the Premiership’s top six.
Goals from Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart helped propel the Dens Park club to their best league campaign since the turn of the 21st century.
Not since the Bonetti era in 2000/01 had Dundee been one of Scotland’s top six teams and not since 1999 under Jocky Scott had they bettered that.
You have to go all the way back to 1987 and Scott’s first spell in charge for their previous top six achievement.
However, McPake has ambitions for his Dundee team to compete in the Premiership at that sort of level.
Though he admits the top flight is more formidable than it has been for a number of years, he’s backing his team to impress next term.
He’s even made the bold statement that the current squad is stronger than the one he was part of in 2014/15.
That side had the likes of Stewart and Hemmings up top, Gary Harkins, Scott Bain and Kevin Thomson in it.
‘This squad is stronger’
Paul McGowan and Cammy Kerr were also at Dens in those days and will return to the Premiership with the Dark Blues next term.
But McPake says they will do so in a better side.
“I might be speaking out of turn and doing players a bit of a disservice but I played in a Dundee team that finished in the top six with the likes of Greg Stewart and Kevin Thomson but I think this squad is stronger than that one,” he said.
“The league might be different as Rangers and Hibs weren’t in it then so the Premiership is now stronger.
“I believe we have a strong enough squad that can go up there and compete – believing is one thing but proving it is another so we have to do that.”
Cup matches give McPake heart
The Dens boss takes that belief from their clashes with successful teams in the top flight last season.
They were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by St Johnstone in the third round 1-0 at Dens Park but had a controversial goal chopped off and missed a second-half penalty.
McPake also takes heart from a narrow 1-0 loss at Easter Road to Hibernian, a side that eventually finished third in the top flight.
Jamie Murphy’s single goal was enough in a battling display to see Jack Ross’ side through after the Hibees had also defeated the Dark Blues in the group stage.
McPake added: “Over the course of this season we lost 4-1 and 1-0 against Hibs.
“In the first game we hardly had any defenders but it was 1-1 with 10 minutes to go and in the 1-0 game we were very unlucky at Easter Road.
“Then against St Johnstone in the cup, Charlie Adam misses a penalty and Danny Mullen scores a perfectly good goal.
“Credit to Callum and St Johnstone as they have won both cups.
“So I wasn’t being arrogant when I said I wasn’t bothered what Premiership team we faced in the play-offs.
“We had (Jordan) McGhee back, Charlie was firing again and everybody was fit. We knew we could get things going and that’s what we have done.”
McPake also reiterated his belief that the squad doesn’t need drastic changes to compete in the top flight.
During Paul Hartley’s first summer in charge in 2014, McPake was one of 11 new signings in a drastic revamp.
This time around, the Dens manager doesn’t feel the need to bring in multiple new faces to be ready for top-flight football.
“The squad is there,” he said.
“It needs strengthening like you do every year but I don’t believe it needs a massive overhaul and we won’t be doing that.
“Again, it is a financial thing as well – we want to be sustainable.
“So we will add bits and pieces where we think we need it and get the ones tied down that have done really well for us as well.”