This past week Aberdeen outfit Cove Rangers FC won the Highland League for the fifth time in their history after a comfortable 3-0 win away at Clachnacuddin. They will now play Edinburgh City over two legs to determine who will face League Two bottom side East Stirling for a place in the SPFL.
Formed in 1922 it’s been a very long and at times frustrating wait to make it to the big time for Cove Rangers but now the club has its fate and destiny very much in their own hands.
Over the years, Cove Rangers have failed twice in their attempts to be granted league membership. In 2002 when the old Airdrieonians went bust Cove applied to fill that void, instead the league administrators granted permission to Gretna to enter the league.
Six years later after an incredible rise and then fall from grace Gretna resigned their position in the league due to financial issues. At this point Cove applied for membership again but were declined in favour of Annan Athletic.
Now all the decisions regarding the club’s league future will be made where they should be made – on the park!
Manager John Sheran, who sadly announced the passing of his father not long after the Clachnacuddin victory, will need to call upon all the experience that his senior players possess in order for his side to gain that much-craved senior league status.
Stuart Duff who plied his trade with Aberdeen, Dundee United and Inverness Caley Thistle among others recently stated that winning the Highland League ‘would be up there with highlights of my career’.
41-year-old Roy McBain who was a former team-mate of Duff’s at Inverness has been there and done it several times during a 23-year career. The experience is there for all to see as is the energetic youth – with former Montrose attacking midfielder Daryl Nicol who has bagged an impressive 43 goals so far this season.
Attacking full-back Stirling Smith, who as a youth learned his trade at Pittodrie, is a player to keep your eye on.
Sheran has all the ingredients at his disposal but Edinburgh City are no push-overs!
The club is superbly run by a very competent board of directors with Chairman Keith Moorhouse steering the ship admirably.
I spoke with Keith over the weekend and it’s obvious to me how very proud he feels of everyone connected with the club.
He said: “When you consider that all of our games this season were away games, the players and the management team richly deserve all of the praise and the credit that they get. Special mention also to the back room team who have worked tirelessly all season and have played a major part in our success.
“They have ensured that playing all of our games on the road has had no effect on the players with their immaculate planning and preparations. Also, a huge thank you to our fans who have given the team brilliant backing over the course of the season and I know that John and the players wanted to reward their support with the league title.
“We now look forward to the SPFL pyramid play-offs and will welcome Edinburgh City next Saturday before heading to Meadowbank Stadium the following Saturday.”
Keith also told me of their plans for the new stadium are progressing well with the local authority and they can still dream about league football in their brand new purpose built facility.
Cove’s home since 1948 Allan Park was sold to developers in April last year and with careful negotiations in place to complete the new stadium Cove have had to travel all over the region and borrow grounds to play their home games this season.
The new stadium at Calder Park will hopefully one day grace league football but before all of that there is the small matter of the play-off against Edinburgh City with the first leg against the Lowland League Champions this coming Saturday at Inverurie Locos ground Harlaw Park, with the return leg in Edinburgh on the 30th April.
Cove boss Sheran has a full squad to choose from having rested a couple of key players in their final match of the Highland Football League season against Turriff last Saturday.
Edinburgh though will go into the game having only played two competitive games since the beginning of the month due to the weather playing havoc with the Meadowbank pitch. They could potentially be ring-rusty!
For Cove Rangers however, the giddy heights of league football is just over the horizon, this really is Roy of the Rovers stuff but let’s not get carried away. First, two very hard games against a very decent side need to be carefully navigated then East Stirling await the winners who I have no doubt will not give up their league status without a fight.
I for one will be glued to updates via social media this Saturday hoping and praying that Aberdeen’s Cove Rangers deliver the type of performance and result that gives them a platform to progress. Just think, two senior sides playing League football from Aberdeen, how terribly romantic!
Ally Begg’s column is sponsored by Dolly Digital, a freelance Graphic and New Media Design Studio based in Aberdeen. Check out their Aberdeen FC-related products now.