This week will arguably be the most exciting in Cove Rangers’ history.
The culmination of plenty of hard work, high-class performances on the park and no shortage of backing from those behind the scenes will see them play in the SPFL for the first time.
Cove have had a taste of what is to come with their participation in national cup competitions. Hugely creditable performances against Championship sides Dundee and Caley Thistle and a 3-0 victory against Raith Rovers during the Betfred Cup group stages have raised hopes further that the club’s bow in League 2 will be a memorable one.
Their squad has been assembled over the last couple of seasons by John Sheran, the club’s coaching staff and hierarchy, with promotion in mind. Players like Mitch Megginson, Ryan Strachan, Scott Ross and Jordon Brown were acquired for their experience of playing at a higher level, with the benefit for them coming in getting back to that level with Cove Rangers.
Recruitment has been on the slower side this summer but manager Paul Hartley, who took over from now-director of football Sheran last month, is slowly adding much-needed depth to his squad. That nous and experience – players who are still comfortably under 30 – has been added to by younger players eager to prove themselves with regular football.
Daniel Higgins and loanees Declan Glass and Chris Antoniazzi have the opportunity to forge names for themselves at Cove and perhaps use it as a platform for full-time action.
Higgins has had a taste of it with Dundee and Kilmarnock without really making a serious breakthrough; working with Hartley again gives him the chance to put that right.
In Harry Milne, they have a full-back who has impressed greatly against higher-ranked teams in the Betfred Cup and has caught the eye of opposition managers.
His frequent forward runs and quality of delivery make him a consistent attacking outlet, while he never lacks diligence in carrying out his defensive duties too.
Connor Scully’s performances have gone under the radar somewhat and provided he returns to the side injury-free next month, should be a hit in League 2. He has the ability to control the tempo of a game; increasing the intensity when Cove are pressing for a goal or being able to drop deeper, recycle possession and offer defensive protection when they are in control.
Some betting companies have already made them favourites for the League 2 title. Several players have said a play-off finish is achievable and that in itself is pleasing.
Contentment with just staying in the league would be a damp squib after their demolition of an established SPFL side in Berwick Rangers to get into the leagues.
It is sure to be an exciting campaign and you would not bet against the Balmoral Stadium seeing even more success.