Joining the SPFL was part of the journey for Cove Rangers. They did not want it to be the end of it.
When manager Paul Hartley joined in 2019, the club were determined not to become satisfied with simply being at the party.
One league title and a play-off exit later, they can safely claim they have more than just existed in the SPFL. They are top of League One and still in two knockout competitions, which brings with it a spotlight.
Hartley and Cove captain Mitch Megginson have scooped League One’s monthly awards for November, as the Aberdeen side went through the month unbeaten and kept three clean sheets.
“The last couple of years has been good,” said Hartley. “The spotlight has been on Cove and we’re doing well.
“We didn’t want to be a club that just came into the league and floated about. We wanted to progress every year and make the club better.
“The Covid thing was a difficult situation but you feel things are a bit better now, with getting fans back in and we’ve had some really good games over the last couple of years.
“Rangers, Hearts, Hibs in the cup, Queen of the South, we’ve got a semi-final and we’re doing OK in the league.
“I’ll never get carried away as a manager. We’ll keep fighting and keep progressing.”
They face Dumbarton today and a Scottish Cup third round replay against Queen of the South on Wednesday. During the week they thumped Rangers B 5-1 to book a place in the last four of the SPFL Trust Trophy.
It is a pivotal period for the club and while the squad is packed with quality, it is not a big squad. Niggles and knocks can soon mount up if the fixtures do.
“The key is managing the squad,” added Hartley. “We’ve got a small squad – 17 players and two keepers – so it’s not a big number.
“This period is about managing them and keeping them fresh. It’s not really to do with training. Try and stay clear of injury and pick a team that can win every game. You want to be fighting on all fronts and be in every competition you can.
“You want to be in the mix towards the end of the season. We know how difficult this league is. There’s not a lot between some of the clubs so consistency levels will be key.”
The individual awards mean things must be going well. Rory McAllister picked up the player of the month award for October after his prolific start to the season and now Megginson and Hartley have swept the November honours.
But ultimately, there are bigger prizes Cove hope to be playing for.
“It’s a nice reward, it means you’re doing OK. It’s reward for everyone at the club – if you’ve not got the players and staff, you don’t get these awards,” said Hartley.
“It’s a good November we had but we need to have a good December. There’s no awards handed out in November or December, the real awards are handed out at the end of the season.
“We’re doing OK just now but I feel there’s still much more to come from us.”