James McPake could be the newest name in the next Scotland squad after a number of heroic displays for English Championship club Coventry City. The former Livingston centre half, 25, is looking to join a growing list of ex-Lions to achieve international recognition when Craig Levein takes charge for the first time in a friendly with Czech Republic on March 3.
McPake, who this week was compared to a war hero by team mate Carl Baker for his all-action displays in a sky blue shirt, has become a fans favourite at the Ricoh Arena since his move in January 2009 and has acted as a stand-in captain on occasion.
Despite several injury setbacks, he has made the step up from the Scottish First Division to the English leagues with ease and has become an integral member of Chris Coleman’s squad, impressing fans, managers and pundits with his no-nonsense style of play.
The player himself, who started off as a striker at Almondvale before reverting to defence, admits it would be a dream come true to follow in the footsteps of Graham Dorrans and Robert Snodgrass in earning a Scotland call – but modestly says he isn't getting his hopes up of receiving a call from the new national boss just yet.
“Obviously, it is something that everybody who plays football gives thought to,” McPake admitted to STV Sport. “I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it. But I am just happy just now to get myself fit and get in the Coventry team, then what happens will happen.
“He [Levein] hasn’t been in touch with me but I don’t know if he has been in touch with my club about it. Obviously it is a dream of every Scot and I would love to play for my country but I need to keep myself fit if I am to have any chance.
“It’s one thing to have the hope and confidence of getting there, but it’s another thing being picked. The main thing for me is to stay fit and play well."
Current Scotland internationals Stephen McManus, David Marshall, Charlie Adam, Don Cowie, Barry Robson and Ross McCormack, as well as the aforementioned Dorrans, all currently ply their trade in the English second tier.
McPake, whose Coventry team mates Freddy Eastwood, Clinton Morrison and Aron Gunnarsson all represent their countries, believes he has a good chance of making the step up for facing a higher standard of opposition each week and points to the number of current call-ups playing in the division.
“I think by playing in the English Championship I could be considered,” said McPake. “You just have to look at some of the players down here and playing against teams like Newcastle United in front of 50,000 people. It’s a good league and it is a hard league with some talented players.
“The main thing has been the size of people down here compared to the Scottish leagues. The strength and speed of the players here is definitely bigger and quicker. So obviously the bigger I am and the quicker I am, the better I am going to be. So from that point of view, I have improved.
“There’s a couple of boys at my club already in their national teams and I have the self-confidence to join them. I can’t help but be envious when it comes to international weekend and they are all talking about who they are playing against.”
His attempts to settle in England were originally dogged with injuries and the defender missed several months of the current campaign because of a shoulder injury sustained in a pre-season match at Dunfermline.
Since then he has fought his way back into the team and, bar the odd niggle here or there - including one that has ruled him out of his team’s last two matches – McPake feels the time out may count in his favour long-term.
“I dislocated my shoulder a couple of weeks before the season started. I was out for three months and then it took me a while in training to get my confidence back to go into tackles. I was just a little uncertain. But I am in good shape now.
“I’ve had injuries before so I know how to deal with them. You’ve just got to accept that when you are injured, that’s the way it is. I got to work on different aspects of my game instead.”
The Livingston youth conveyor belt has churned out a number of current and prospective Scotland internationals, with St Johnstone midfielder Murray Davidson, 21, and Dundee striker Leigh Griffiths, 19, expected to have big careers ahead of them.
With West Brom midfielder Dorrans and Leeds winger Snodgrass having previously been recognised with inclusions in George Burley’s squads, McPake feels a lot of credit is due to certain people previously with the West Lothian club for helping to shape the future of several Scottish talents.
“I see Graham Dorrans quite regularly and he is flying at the moment,” said McPake. He is a good player and he deserves to be in the Scotland squad. It is a credit to Livingston and the coaches there. I don’t know what the secret has been, but a lot of it must be down to how certain people at the club treated the young players.
“Mark Proctor and Curtis Fleming were a huge influence on myself, Dorrans and Snodgrass. They were both brilliant and he made it a big year for all three of us. We started turning in good performances week in, week out, because we were working under a very good manager and assistant.
“Then there is Graeme Robertson [now at Stenhousemuir] and Alex Cleland [St Johnstone] because they brought us through. There is a lot of credit to certain people at Livingston for bringing all these boys on.”