The last two years have been enjoyable on the park for Cove Rangers and their manager Paul Hartley is not immune from that.
When he came in to the club in 2019, ahead of their SPFL debut, there was a five-year project to get Cove towards the Championship.
By the end of this month, they could have achieved that goal. Today sees the first leg of their play-off semi-final against Airdrieonians, a club they faced last weekend in their final game of the split.
“I’ve enjoyed the last two years,” said Hartley. “I’ve enjoyed my Saturdays after the game because we’ve been used to winning. We’ve not had too many lows.
“Sometimes that’s just round the corner, but I’ve enjoyed working with the players, looking forward to the games, training. I just wish I had more nights training with them but that’s not possible.
“I think Cove have certainly added something over the last couple of years to the SPFL. We’ve shown we’re a good outfit. We’re ambitious.
“We’ve improved the standards of the club. We’ve worked hard behind-the-scenes and we’ll keep working hard to make the players better. There’s still a lot more to come and I think we’re ahead of schedule for where we want to be.
“I think everybody, including the chairman, must enjoy it, seeing where there club is. It’s taken a long time to get to the SPFL and we want to stay there, progress and get better.”
Cove’s charge to the League Two title last season might have surprised some and the fact they have been fighting among three full-time teams at the top of League One has taken some outsiders aback.
But Cove have never got used to losing. Each season has been a relentless pursuit of glory and, by and large, they have always walked away with something.
This season has been unlike any other, with it disrupted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cove and other lower-league clubs had a 10-week shutdown due to Scotland-wide restrictions and faced a frantic race to the finish, once football returned on March 20.
“Showing how we can compete at this level with teams that are experienced and full-time (has been pleasing),” added Hartley. “We’ve given everybody a game. We’ve not buckled under any pressure and been fairly consistent – the players deserve credit for that.
“We weren’t sure how we were going to be when we came back. We felt we could be consistent and get the right results and we have. This is the next biggest game in the club’s history; we’ve progressed so quickly over the last three years. Everybody should look forward to it.
“If you’ve got that mentality that you’re used to winning silverware that can help, but it’s down to the day.”
On to today, Cove hope this is the first of four 90 minutes between them and the Championship. They know what could be achieved.
“The players know they have 180 minutes, potentially more, in front of them,” added Hartley. “The first game is the important one and you always make sure you stay in the tie for the second game.
“We’re at home and the players know what’s expected of them. It’s not going to change too drastic. Play with a cool head – it can’t always be blood and thunder.
“We’ll just focus on the game in front of us. After that, then we can look at what we need to do.”