As much criticism as Pat Fenlon has recieved, there is one things that he has got spot on; the signing of the rock solid central defender that is James McPake. Fenlon immediately gave him the privilege of being club captain and righly so. McPake ignified Easter Road and ever since his debut he has been a fans favourite.
It didn’t start off so well…
On the 28th January 2012, Hibs loanee and debutant James McPake started off his Hibernian career with an exasperating 4-0 defeat against Rangers Football Club at Ibrox stadium. A Rangers side bereft of confidence due to Glasgow Rivals Celtic taking an asailing lead at the crest of the Scottish Premier League. Rangers dominated throughout to trounce Hibs 4-0. In what was a desolating outing for Hibs as a team. It was even more so for McPake himself. He was dismissed for persistent fouling and this was evidentally a game to forget for the Hibees and for the Easter Road skipper.
Heroic Performance v Kilmarnock in Scottish Cup
Eoin Doyle (pictured) may have scored the goal that separated the two sides, but it was James McPake that had a simply faultless match against Kilmarnock on 4th February 2012. A charismatic performance earned him deserved Man of the match award. He lead the back 4 heroicly, making last ditch tackles on 3 separate occasions to preserve the victory for the boys in green and white.
Establishing himself as a key player
McPake was consistently the standout player match by match. His astounding performances got the plaudits from the football community and also from the supporters, who were overawed by McPake’s performances. It seemed as though he couldn’t put a foot wrong and flourished in a Hibernian shirt.
Flawless Performances afterwards
Hibernian 4-0 Dunfermline
Hibs went into the game needing a point to secure survival and preserve their SPL status at Easter Road. Hibs fans turned up in their numbers for the crucial encounter. It was a sellout and this clearly spurred Hibs on and the massive turnout startled Dunfermline.
Hibs fans were feral when Matt Doherty made it 1-0, and following goals from Eoin Doyle and Garry O’Connor gave Hibs a 3-goal cushion after just 15 minutes. What should have been an extremely tense game, became rather comfortable! Hibs fortune continued when a dubious goal from Paul Hanlon was judged to have crossed the line. That concluded the game nicely.
But it was the dependable James McPake that again stole the limelight. His rock solid defending kept the supporters from feeling tense.
After the final whistle was blown, the Hibs announcer thanked the fans for the support and informed them that the players were going to do a lap around the pitch to show their appreciation. James McPake ran around the pitch separately where he got a standing ovation and an almighty roar! One supporter even threw his scarf at him, in which he put on (shown below)
Scottish cup final: Hibernian 1 -5 Heart of Midlothian
The most miserable day of Hibs history left me with tears in my eye, but James McPake never gave up and that is something I admire. Craig Thompson the referee ruined this game as Hearts fan would admit themselves – sending off Pa Saikou Kujabi, the Gambian left back for a light tug on the shirt of Suso Santana. The self-confessed Hearts supporter was biased towards the boys in maroon right from the first whistle.
Hearts deserved to win nonetheless and there is no denying that but certainly not by a 4-goal margin. James McPake made a sensational block off the line at 2-0 down, and then popped up with a goal down the other end to give Hibs a chance in the 2nd half.
Unfortunately the second half was disastrous and the Hibs fans were sent home feeling miserable, but the illustrious defender will always be remembered for that goal he scored and more importantly, that splendid block off the line. “Hero!”
Hibernian 1-1 Heart of Midlothian (15/8/12)
McPake was outstanding in the most recent derby. He showed his great defensive attributes. Won every aerial battle, won every tackle and was just phenomenal. Leigh Griffiths may have got the goal and tormented the Hearts defence, but McPake was the man-of-the-match in my eyes!
Only an Alan Maybury error deprived McPake of his cleansheet, but that takes nothing away from his exceptional performance.
Loyalty: He chose the Hibees
McPake was the “cream of the crop” for Hibs and that left him with options. With other clubs showing interested in the central defender, the Hibs fans love him most for his loyalty. No matter how poor Hibs were, McPake stood by them.
Indesputably, there were more attractive offers on the table with Celtic, rivals Heart of Midlothian, and a return to Coventry all showing interest. Celtic and Hearts are superior teams. The supporters will forever be thankful for that decision he made. He is now unquestionably the fans favourite!
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