Feature: Season Preview – Cove Rangers

It’s not unusual for a newly promoted team to walk into their new league and manage to push towards the top end of it. If there is one team in Scottish football who has earned themselves promotion that we feel as though could fit that mould, it would be Cove Rangers.

The mountain climb that is trying to move from the Highland/Lowland league and in to the Scottish football pyramid has prevented Cove from making it into League Two before this point, but no one was all that surprised to finally see them do it.

It also would not come as a surprise to many if Cove were to be quite competitive in League Two this term, considering the squad they’ve already put together, which has some players that could be and have played further up, they’ve got a bucket load of momentum and a new ground too.

When you look across the Cove Rangers squad you can see plenty examples of players who have played at a higher level and have dropped down to join the battle with Cove – many local to the North East and finding it far easier to pair full-time work in Aberdeen with playing within the city.

This includes the likes of Mitch Megginson and Jordan Brown – formerly of the Aberdeen youth system, and both having played for the likes of Raith Rovers and Alloa Athletic for Megginson, and Peterhead for Jordan Brown. Luke Emmett and Jamie Masson are also examples of former Dons finding a place at Balmoral Stadium.

Blaire Yule moved from Arbroath to Cove last season and now Montrose midfielder Jamie Redman has joined Yule in dropping down from League One to become part of John Sheran’s team – despite both reportedly being offered chances to stay by their former clubs.

When you add this to the likes of the results achieved in the play-off against Berwick Rangers last season and a League Cup group stage game against Hearts last summer that saw Cove give Craig Levein’s outfit a difficult time, eventually losing 2-1 – then you can see why it feels as though this was a long time coming for Cove, and why it could be a while before they find their ceiling.

Other transfer rumours have certainly shown how ambitious Cove are – they’ve been linked with transfer listed Peterhead striker Shane Sutherland, who has a knack of scoring in League Two – he notched 13 last term between Peterhead and Elgin City – and they’ve even openly admitted interest in former Aberdeen and Wigan midfielder Fraser Fyvie, who was recently released by Dundee United, although admit that might not be possible.

Cove Chairman Keith Moorhouse told the Sun of their potential interest, he said:

Fraser is a friend of the club.

Would we like him to play for us? Absolutely.

I dare to say though he will continue to play fullt-time.”

Cove also remain hopeful that they can convince Aberdeen to send a few youngsters on loan to Balmoral – which would certainly work well for all parties, with the players getting experience without having to leave home, being able to train with both clubs and with Aberdeen playing their reserve games at Balmoral, players would certainly be used to the surroundings.

Cove will also surely look to continue the trend set by quite a few of the members of their current squad, in recruiting released members of the Dons youth team. One player who departed Pittodrie this summer that we feel could fit in with Cove is right-back Ryan Harrington. The Welshman spent last season on loan with League One Cove, and looked good enough for that level whenever we watched him play. So he may not want to drop down to League Two, plus might get an offer from Montrose, but could be worth an offer.

With Cove it just seems like there is one narrative after another, one of those is most certainly their managerial situation. Boss John Sheran suffered a heart attack shortly before their pyramid play-offs began, he been recovering and managed to watch the final game against Berwick Rangers but his assistant boss Graeme Mathieson has moved up to the role of co-manager in Cove’s time of need.

Thus far it would appear the two will stay in charge, or at least nothing further has been commented on, but Sheran recently admitted he’d have to seriously think about his future in regards to his health.

Some will put two and two together should the job open up and possibly makes links of Paul Hartley taking control at Balmoral. Out of the job after a difficult time with Falkirk, Hartley did end up taking a few training sessions for Cove towards the end of the previous campaign. However, this was down to a family connection – Hartley’s partner is John Sheran’s daughter Lisa, so it was more likely an act of good faith, although who’s to say if the job did become available that he wouldn’t take it. Especially considering how ambitious Cove are as a club, maybe they could tempt the former Hearts captain over the interest he’d potentially gather from Championship or League One clubs.

Another intriguing narrative going into the new season will be the multiple meetings of Cove and Cowdenbeath. Following the play-offs last season, where Cowdenbeath narrowly beat their northern opponents to retain League Two status – with three Cove players sent off in added time.

At the time Sheran went on an almighty rant about their opponents and the referees.

He said:

I really don’t know where we get these officials from

The referee was completely biased towards Cowdenbeath.

From my point of view, it looked like he was wearing a blue shirt.”

Sheran wasn’t pleased with opposite number Gary Bollan and his players, saying:

It was tackle. But he gets assaulted by Cowdenbeath players from behind.”

So it most certainly seems as though the fixtures between the two could be a few fiery affairs to say the least.

For Cove Rangers in their first season in the SPFL the campaign represents somewhat of an opportunity to push themselves, without too much judgement if they don’t quite reach the heights some have predicted they could. As long as they retain their place in League Two they’ll at least be pleased they haven’t slipped right back into the Highland League, but you’d think with the money spent and some of the players coming through the doors, not pushing further up the division would result in at least some quiet disappointment for the backrooms at Balmoral.