The rise of Cove Rangers
The Aberdeenshire club taking Scottish football by storm
by Calum Nelson
Balmoral Stadium - Home of Cove Rangers FC (picture from Wikimedia Commons)
With Aberdeen generally considered a one-club city, many football supporters might not be aware of the recent exploits of Cove Rangers. Based in the Cove Bay area of Aberdeen, the semi-professional club play their home games at Balmoral Stadium, having moved from Allan Park in 2015.
Cove were formed in 1922 and played in local amateur leagues until they were accepted into the Highland Football League in 1986. They stayed there until 2019 when they won promotion to the Scottish Football League Division 2.
After winning the Highland League, they convincingly saw off Lowland League champions Berwick Rangers 7-0 on aggregate in the two-legged play-off to earn their place in the 4th tier of professional Scottish football.
In League 2, Cove faced a step up in quality, with manager John Sheran taking up the role of director of football at the start of the 2019/20 season. The club showed their ambition by replacing him with ex Falkirk manager, Paul Hartley – a major coup for a club of Cove’s size.
Hartley set about adding to his squad, with loan deals for talented young prospects, such as Declan Glass and Matty Smith from Dundee United. The headline signing was former Wigan, Hibernian and Aberdeen midfielder Fraser Fyvie, who had captained Dundee United in the Scottish Championship only the previous season.
Cove began the season with a resounding 5-0 home win over promotion contenders Edinburgh City. It was a real statement of intent from the promoted side and they embarked on an impressive run, winning 6 of the following 7 games and adding to the momentum they had built in the Highland League the previous season.
Despite suffering a couple of defeats in the following weeks, Cove soon established themselves at the top of the division.
In January, the club strengthened their squad with a number of new loan signings, with prolific lower league striker Rory McAllister joining from Peterhead for an undisclosed five-figure fee. This gave a further boost to their title ambitions and by March, Cove had established a 13-point lead over second-placed Edinburgh City, having played a game more.
Rory McAllister celebrates scoring for Cove Rangers (picture from the official website of Cove Rangers FC)
However, on the 13th of March, all Scottish Professional Football Leagues were suspended indefinitely due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
After much discussion, on the 15th of April, the SPFL board declared the season over and crowned Cove Rangers champions, guaranteeing their promotion to Scottish League 1. Club captain and talisman Mitch Megginson finished the campaign as League 2 top scorer with an impressive 24 goals in 25 games.
This coming League 1 season offers Cove much to be excited about. They will face Peterhead in a new North-East derby and get the opportunity to test themselves against established professional sides such as Falkirk and Partick Thistle.
While this may seem daunting for some, Cove have high ambitions and will fancy their chances against the full-time clubs. It will certainly be intriguing to see if they can keep their winning momentum going and even push for a remarkable third successive promotion.
Cove kick off their 2020/21 campaign at home to East Fife on Saturday the 17th of October.