John Sheran has become synonymous with Cove Rangers’ success.
As manager he steered them to five Highland League titles and eventual promotion to the SPFL, via the pyramid play-offs, last year.
His role may have changed somewhat – he moved “upstairs” before this season to become director of football – but his admiration of the club’s progress will not cease.
Cove were runaway leaders of League Two when football was stopped in March, with the SPFL’s season-ending proposals seeing them crowned champions just over a fortnight ago.
Former Montrose stalwart Sheran, who lifted his first league championship with the club in 2008, believes there is still more to come from this successful group of players.
He said: “The players are used to winning. They’re good players so can get the ball down and pass it against anybody. But I’m sure they can all improve and going against better players, you have to improve and get better. I think they’re capable of doing that.
“They probably surprised themselves with how well they’ve done. One thing with the Irn-Bru Cup and taking part in the Betfred Cup over the years, you get used to playing teams in the Scottish leagues. It gives you confidence that you can go in there and beat them.
“We’ve taken that on this year and while we’ve had a few defeats, we’ve bounced back really well afterwards. At home we’ve been super strong and even when we’ve been pegged back, we’ve been able to find something extra to go and win the game.”
It is nearly 12 months since Cove made the step up to the SPFL, becoming the first Highland League side to do so via the play-offs. A 7-0 aggregate win over Berwick Rangers, with Sheran’s assistants Graeme Mathieson and Roy McBain in the dugout, was a red letter day in the club’s history.
He added: “It has gone from strength to strength. We had been building up to it for two or three seasons, improving the squad and trying to get better players in. We thought we were good enough the year before, but didn’t make it. The 2019 group managed to get the job done.
“One defeat in the league is a remarkable achievement and then the play-offs, the guys really stepped up to the plate and did the business.”
Health concerns saw Sheran take a step back last year, with Paul Hartley stepping into the breach and building on his good work. Hartley had taken a couple of training sessions towards the end of last season and took on a side with an ingrained winning mentality.
Sheran said: “The guys are full of confidence and not frightened of anybody, which is the good thing about it. We go out and attack everybody and that’s the positive style of play the manager has got in place.
“As a group of players, they’re used to that. In the Highland League there was an expectation to win every game, because if you didn’t win then Brora, Fraserburgh or somebody else was going to be on top of you. That brought some pressure and that’s carried on this year.
“The standard of the opposition in the Highland League wasn’t the same as the league we’re in now, but there was still a pressure to go and win every game, whether you’re going to Keith, Brora or Fort William.
“The players have dealt with that, certainly over the last five years, really well.”