Arron Darge is enjoying the challenge of playing for Cove Rangers – and a Scottish Cup encounter with Kilmarnock is the next test he is raring to face.
A trip to Rugby Park awaits Darge, 20, and his Cove team-mates on Saturday afternoon as they take on Killie in the fifth round of the cup.
For the young centre-back, the upcoming clash against the Premiership club is set to be another valuable learning experience following his arrival Cove on a two-year deal from Hearts in the summer.
A win for Paul Hartley’s side against Killie would see Cove reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup for the first time – and Darge is relishing the occasion.
“In the academy there is not as much to play for,” said Darge. “But when you step into men’s football every week there is always something to play for.
“This week we’ve got Killie in the Scottish Cup and that is a massive incentive for us, and in the league every point means something for us to get into the play-off places.
“This kind of pressure is not something I have ever really experienced before, but it’s exciting and I’m really enjoying it.
“Kilmarnock will be the best team that we have faced this season – it will be the best team I have ever played against.
“It has been business as usual preparing for the game. We’ve looked at their strengths and their weaknesses and how they set up, like we do with every team.
“We are all really looking forward to it, even if it will be a tough game.
“These are the games you look forward to and you want to be a part of. Every game counts at this level, but it is these kind of games, where you look to go on a Scottish Cup run, that are really exciting.”
Darge aiming to prove worth at Cove Rangers
Since joining Cove, Darge has featured 20 times in all competitions, including 13 appearances in League One – where Cove currently sit third after 23 games.
Having to stake his claim in the starting XI has been something new for Darge, who spent time on loan at Kelty Hearts in League Two last term, and who previously played in the Lowland League with Hearts B and during a loan spell with Gala Fairydean Rovers in 2021-22.
“It has been brilliant so far,” said Darge. “It has been a lot of playing and then not playing which has been different for me.
“It has been a good experience to learn and to challenge myself at this level.
“There are a lot of good teams in the league and it can be a lot more physical. It is a step up from where I have played before, but having half a season on loan with Kelty Hearts last year gave me a bit of a taste for it.
“I never really had to bide my time when I was playing with the academy.
“At Hearts, I was used to playing most weeks, so it has been challenging – but it’s my first season at the club and I’m one of the younger players, so I expected it a bit.
“It is just up to me to get into the team and do something good that gives the gaffer a reason to play me.”
Darge hails brother and Scotland rugby star Rory
Darge is not the only professional athlete in his family – with brother Rory Scotland’s co-captain, alongside Finn Russell, at this year’s Six Nations.
Rory, 23, missed the nail-biting opening win against Wales due to a knee injury, but is in line to return when Scotland host France at Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon.
With both brothers plying their respective trades on Saturdays, it has been difficult for them to support each other in person, with Arron yet to see 15-time-capped Rory in action for Scotland.
“I speak to him on the phone all the time,” said Darge. “It’s good to get his perspective on how they train and his workload.
“There are a lot of differences between our sports, but there are a lot of similarities, too.
“It’s brilliant to see him doing well in his career. He’s flying and we’re all so proud of him.
“He has had a lot of different experiences, even though he has only just started his career – from leaving Edinburgh to go to Glasgow and then coming into the Scotland squad.
“He has struggled a lot with injuries and, touch wood, I haven’t had to go through anything like that, but it’s good to have someone who can relate (to the ups and downs of sport) and we can support each other with that.”
Although Darge’s focus will be on beating Kilmarnock on Saturday afternoon, he admits the first thing he will do come full-time is to check the Scotland score.
“The first thing I will be doing after the game is absolutely going straight on my phone,” said Darge. “I will give Rory a message or talk to him on the phone as soon as he’s free.”