GRAHAM DORRANS knew James McPake was management material as a teenager after watching Livingston’s ‘leader’ set Leigh Griffiths and Robert Snodgrass on the path to stardom.
And the Rangers midfielder has backed his old Lions skipper to prove it with Dundee.
McPake has been placed in caretaker charge of the Dee following the dismissal of Jim McIntyre last weekend and will oversee their final Premiership outing of the season against St Mirren on Saturday.
As McPake stakes his claim for the top job, Dorrans, another marquee figure in that Golden Generation in West Lothian, reckons Dens Park chief John Nelms should look no further for the man to revitalise the club.
“There were signs that he would make a good manager in the Livingston days,” the 32-year-old told Capital City Press. “You could see he was a leader. He was vocal in the changing room and on the pitch – and that group all looked up to him.
“If we needed a rocket, if we needed an arm around the shoulder; he was the guy.
“He was a couple of years older than myself, Snoddy [Snograss], Leigh [Griffiths] and guys like that, so we felt we could go to James with things. He was a big part in the development of all those boys.
“I think he has been captain at every club he has been at. That speaks for itself and I’ve no doubt he would take the same attributes into his coaching.”
Dorrans witnessed McPake’s competitive edge from the other side when he lined up against his pal for West Bromwich Albion in 2010. The big defender walked away with a booking, but it was Dorrans who left the Hawthorns with the bruises.
“He was a nightmare to play against,” smiled Dorrans. “He’s actually got a picture of him smashing me while playing for Coventry! He likes to send me that now and again.”
While McPake did not hit the heights scaled by some graduates of that Almondvale talent factory, he did go on to win one cap for Northern Ireland and play more than 250 games on both sides of the border.
Dorrans is adamant that McPake would have enjoyed a more illustrious career if not for the succession of injuries that ultimately forced him to hang up his boots at the age of 33.
However, he says those battles with back and knee issues have only made McPake – on the cusp on completing his Uefa Pro License – more determined to be a success in the dugout.
“Although having to retire was devastating for James at the time, it gave him a real determination to get his coaching badges,” continued Dorrans. “If not for his set-backs, he could have had an even better career. I know he could have gone a lot higher.
“But he has taken that frustration and poured it into the coaching.
“He will be focused on doing well this week and hopefully he shows enough to get the job – because I know how hard he has worked.
“If you are going to go down that coaching route, you need to be the one setting an example. You need to be the first one in every morning and the last one to leave at night. James has done that – he’s still up at there at 9 p.m..”
Dundee are searching for their seventh permanent manager in less than a decade and Dorrans reckons McPake could provide some much needed continuity – while building for the future.
As well as captaining the club in the autumn of his career, making more than 50 appearances for the Dark Blues, McPake has most recently been head of academy coaching at Dens.
“Although it is a massive blow for them to go down, it could be a chance for the younger players to push through, establish themselves and help rebuild,” added Dorrans.
“James has been around these kids through their development and will know who is ready to step up and make an impact.”
And Dorrans, now fit and back in full training with Rangers following a frustrating campaign, has revealed that he will soon follow McPake’s lead.
He added: “I have a few years left in me yet but once I decide to go down that route I’ll certainly do my badges and look to explore any opportunities that are out there.“