With a first-ever promotion to the Scottish League and a dramatic debut, these are exciting times for ambitious Aberdeen-based club Cove Rangers. Peterjon Cresswell speaks to Rangers follower Kevin Rinchey.
Currently top of League Two, having played out a 4-4 thriller at Alloa and thrashed Edinburgh City 5-0 before a decent crowd five shy of a thousand, Cove Rangers have certainly made their presence felt in the Scottish League.
Immediately prior to that, in the Betfred Cup Cove tonked Raith 3-0 and held Dundee – the Dundee – to 0-0 before going out on penalties. The crowd at the Balmoral Stadium that day: 1,410. So what’s behind this new force in lower-league Scottish football?
“To be brutal about it, money, and a driving ambition which other clubs in League Two, and possibly even League One, will struggle to match,” says Rangers follower Kevin Rinchey.
“The club has a superb new ground in the Balmoral Stadium, which currently has one stand but potential for expansion. The all-weather 4G surface and the corporate facilities will generate revenue from the Aberdeen public. They have a chairman and a sponsor who are connected to the oil industry. They also have a loyal support which will be augmented by new attendees attracted to league football, even some Dons supporters when the fixtures don’t clash. All this could boost crowds to nearer to 2,000.”
Saturday’s visitors to the 2,600-capacity Balmoral Stadium, unveiled in the Cove Bay area of Aberdeen in 2018, are Cowdenbeath.
It was The Blue Brazil who prevented Cove from going up to the Scottish League in 2018. Under the recently introduced play-off system, at the end of the season the bottom team of League Two meets the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues. The narrow defeat meant that The Wee Rangers had to wait another season to gain full league status.
“I think the club felt very hard done by in the play-off against Cowdenbeath last year where they believe they were the better team at the wrong end of dubious refereeing decisions,” remembers Kevin. “This year Cove were again favourites to win the Highland League despite strong opposition from the likes of Brora Rangers. But once they had won it, that I think there was no doubt inside the club that they were much better than a dreadfully out-of-form Berwick Rangers, proved over the two-leg play-off. The whole set-up at Cove Rangers is geared towards playing in the Scottish League and now that has been achieved.”
With promotion, Aberdeen is now another of only a select handful of cities in Scotland with more than one club in the League.
“Aberdeen FC have done pretty well in their 116-year existence in a one-city, one-team scenario,” says Kevin. “It’s difficult to say whether the city would have benefitted from a huge rivalry between two clubs or not. I don’t see Cove entering the Scottish League as a threat to Aberdeen, instead it is being seen as a hugely positive thing for football in the city which definitely has the population to support more than one team. Certainly, there is a close relationship between the two clubs, as you can see through the Dons playing U20 fixtures at Balmoral, loan deals and many of the Cove board stating they are Dons fans. Cove benefiting from being the average Aberdeen fan’s ‘wee team’.”
So, how far can Cove go? “Officially Cove won’t say it, but I think they will be pushing for promotion, at least a play-off place. You can see by their successful recent Betfred Cup campaign where they drew with Dundee just relegated from the Premiership, suffered two narrow defeats to Inverness Caledonian and Peterhead – a club that could be an example to follow for Cove – plus a hugely impressive 3-0 home win against Raith, all clubs in divisions above them. With Cove being in Aberdeen and having the financial clout, they have a number of young players who have previously played at a higher level including the three former Dons, Jamie Masson, Mitch Megginson and Jordon Brown. Add to this two impressive loans, Chris Antoniazzi from Aberdeen and Declan Glass from Dundee United then, of course, Paul Hartley brings a huge amount of gravitas and football experience to the manager’s role, with previous incumbent John Sheran in the background to give advice after his recovery from ill health.”
To reach the Balmoral Stadium, take bus No.3 (every 15min) from Bridge Street by Aberdeen station to Cove, alighting past the Shell garage at Souter Head Road, journey time 15min. The previous stop, Redmoss Park, is closest to the Wellington Hotel and its formidable, family-friendly bar. There’s also a clubhouse bar at the ground.
Terrace admission is £12, pay an extra £2 for a seat in the main stand. Reductions £6/£8.
Cove Rangers-Cowdenbeath, Balmoral Stadium (Cove Bay, AB12 3JP). Scottish League Two, Saturday, August 17, 3pm.