Tuesday morning last week saw what was probably Cove Rangers’ biggest attendance in what has been a long 16 months.
It was not for a game – those are on the horizon – but another event Cove will hope can deliver them wins on and off the park.
The media interest around Cove has been on a steady incline since their arrival into the SPFL in 2019.
However, the signings of Ross Draper and Iain Vigurs last week was rightly recognised as a major statement of intent from the Aberdeen club.
Vigurs and Draper were both playing Premiership football last season with Ross County. They are seasoned pros with a huge amount of experience behind them.
Draper was a Scottish Cup winner with Inverness in 2015, while Vigurs was County captain last season. Both won the Championship and Challenge Cup with the Staggies in 2019 and turned down full-time offers to drop into League One.
Giving players aged 32 and 33 three-year deal might raise eyebrows but it is seen as affording the players security of a longer contract, to aid the transition from full-time to part-time.
Both players have spoken of the ambition of the club as a big selling point and it appears Cove will also help Draper and Vigurs in finding a trade away from football.
Bringing players of this calibre to the club is not being done so they can consolidate in League One. These signings come with an expectation that promotion will be the main target.
League One was the most competitive division in Scotland last season. Three sides were still in the title race going into the split, with Cove being one of them.
🔵 Cove Rangers are delighted to confirm the signing of Ross Draper and Iain Vigurs, who have penned three year deals with the club
— Cove Rangers FC (@CoveRangersFC) June 23, 2021
Only Partick Thistle made the jump up to the Championship. If anything, there are likely to be more hungry teams challenging at the top during the 21-22 campaign.
Falkirk are under new management in Paul Sheerin and are in desperate need of a return to the second tier. Alloa Athletic – relegated last season – brought in Barry Ferguson from Kelty Hearts to lead them in a potential promotion bid.
Airdrieonians ended Cove’s promotions hopes in May and were beaten play-off finalists. Then there is Queen’s Park.
Backed substantially by Willie Haughey, the Spiders brought in players with Premiership experience last year. Darren Lyon, Grant Gillespie, Louis Longridge, Simon Murray and Bob McHugh spearheaded their romp to the League Two title, while Lewis Moore joined this summer after his release by Hearts. They are pushing for a quick rise up the leagues.
Paul Hartley’s side are the new boys in all of this and while last year they may have tried to keep a lid on promotion talk, it will be a lot harder this season.
They also brought in Kyle Gourlay this week, a goalkeeper who played 10 times for Hamilton Accies in the top flight last season.
The boat is being pushed out at the Balmoral Stadium and Cove will become harder and harder to ignore.