GARY IS HAVING A HAKE OF A TIME WITH COVE RANGERS
COVE Rangers youth development chief Gary Hake is loving life at Balmoral Stadium.
So much so the 48-year-old doesn't see himself ever being a manager again in his on right - despite having been one of the most decorated Highland League coaches in recent times.
Buckie Thistle won the title two years on the trot during his time at Victoria Park.
The Jags also won two Aberdeenshire Cups and the Aberdeenshire Shield.
Deveronvale were also among the silverware when Gary was at Princess Royal Park, including a league and cup double during his first season.
Securing a man who has eight major Highland honours, as well some young league titles, to his credit as their head of youth development was a major coup for Cove.
Even more so because Gary turned down offers to continue managing at Highland League level when Cove boss John Sheran made his move for him last October. "I could still have been a manager in the Highland League, but I have no regrets," he said.
"I love working for Cove, it feels like it's where I was always meant to be.
"Helping to develop young players has always been one of my main passions.
"When John phoned me I was excited to get the offer and accepted it immediately.
"It's proved to be the dream job for me.
"When I first moved into coaching it was in youth development, up at Rothes.
"We won the youth league twice and a good few of the players went on to play at first team level.
"That was the most pleasurable part of the job, seeing a young lad come in and gradually work his way up to getting an opportunity with the first team.
"It's a bit more difficult for youngsters at Cove because they are the top side in Highland football.
"You would have to be an extremely talented young player to break into a side that is competing for the title and all the other honours.
"But it's my job to ensure we eventually have ones that are good enough.
"It's a massive challenge, but one I'm happy to take on."
Gary is in overall charge of the club's youth set-up, which has been generously supported by Apache this season.
His duties include the running of the Under-20 and Under-17 sides.
Former Aberdeen FC youth coach Brian Morrison assists with the former and Daniel Middler with the latter.
The Under-17 side face Turriff United away tonight, 8pm.
The under-20s are at home to Fraserburgh a week today, with that match also kicking off at 8pm.
While winning their respective league titles would be nice, Gary says it's the development of the youngsters that is the top priority.
He is encouraged by the fact one of the former youth team players, Hamish MacLeod, has already made his breakthrough this term.
The teenager scored in Cove's recent 3-1 win over Deveronvale in the semis of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.
He also points to the likes of Connor Scully, Harry Milne and Blair Yule as further proof that Cove will give players who came through their youth set-up the opportunity to perform at the highest level.
Gary said: "I constantly remind our lads that there is a clear pathway there for them.
"We have several youngsters who have a right good chance.
"As ever, it's up to them to work hard and show how hungry they are to get on at Cove.
"Some of them got a taste of what's required when they were allowed to train with the firs team during pre-season.
"It was doing well then that helped earn Hamish a slot in the first team squad.
"If one or two more can force themselves into John's plans it will be job done as far as I'm concerned."
The move to Balmoral has also been an asset to Gary's efforts to attract the best young players to the club.
He said: "Last season we trained once a week down on the artificial pitch at Kaimhill, which wasn't ideal.
"Like the first team, we also had to play away from home all the time, which nobody likes to do.
"It's 100 times easier because we now have our own place.
"We train two nights a week on the best of facilities and it's an advantage to be able to sell that to any players we might show an interest in.
"There has been a definite rise in the number of players showing a keen interest in becoming involved with us."