CHAMPIONS AT LAST: Cove Rangers celebrate winning the Highland League title for the first time in 2001.

DOUG Baxter can’t believe it’s now close to 20 years since he led Cove Rangers to the club’s first Highland League title.
Cove had been runners-up four occasions - in seasons 1989-90, 92-93, 94-95 and 95-96 - since joining the league in 1986.
But the ultimate triumph was finally achieved in 2000-2001 when the side captained by Doug and managed by Bob Summers finished four points clear of Huntly at the top of the table.
“It means a lot to me to have been the first title winning captain,” said Doug, who had been with Huntly before returning for what was actually his third spell at Allan Park.
“I first played for Cove when I was a youngster, as a trialist  in a couple of games towards the end of their only season in the Junior Leagues.
“I chose to sign for Huntly in 1986 though but came back to Cove in 1990 and it always annoyed me that we didn’t manage to win the league before I joined Peterhead five years later.
“It was a fantastic feeling to help Cove finally get over the line when I eventually returned to the club again.
“It meant a lot to everyone at the club, especially those who had been with Cove since before acceptance into the Highland League.
“I  enjoyed great success when I was with Huntly but my happiest days, without a doubt, were at Cove.
“I played in better teams than the Cove one that claimed that first title.
“But we were a very close-knit group who had a burning desire to become the first to end Cove’s title drought, which made what we achieved all the more special.`’
Doug’s drive and determination in midfield was a huge factor, despite the fact he was often the main target for abuse from rival fans.
“I used to love that sort of stuff,” he said.
“People will have their opinions about whether I was a good player or not but they could never accuse me of failing to give my all in any game.
“I was same at Cove as I was when I played for Huntly and Peterhead.
“Nothing meant more than my team winning and the way I went about doing that upset opposing fans at times, but I didn’t care.”
Cove clinched the title with a victory at Keith, which made up for what Doug described as a “terrible start” to their campaign.
“We lost away to Wick then drew with Fort William the week after at Allan Park,”  he continued.
“I doubt if anyone would have been backing us to be title winners after that.
“But we always believed we were good enough and just kept going and eventually got ourselves on to the top of the pile.”
Summers had succeeded Doug Rougvie as boss during the 1998-99 campaign and led Cove to victory in the Tennent’s Highland League Cup in his first full season in charge.
Cove also claimed the  Qualifying Cup and Aberdeenshire Shield in 2000-2001 to complete a glorious treble.
Doug, who now works as a taxi driver in Aberdeen, said: “It was a pleasure to play under Bob because he was already a Highland League legend.
“Everyone admired him because of the success he had enjoyed in his playing days with Inverness Caley.
“He was actually pretty laid back as a manager, Bob was never the sort to get too angry in the dressing room if things weren’t going so well.
“He never really needed to once we had sorted ourselves after the sticky start.
“As I said, we were a pretty close-knit group of players and Bob added to the positive feel by constantly encouraging us.
“Bob didn’t have any real tough decisions to make but he earned the honour of becoming the first to manage a title winning Cove side.
“We won every honour possible while he was there, which says it all really.”

UNSTOPPABLE: Manager Bob Summers and the Cove Rangers players display their amazing trophy haul in 2001.


Doug, who left Allan Park for the final time in 2002 - isn’t surprised Cove went on to dominate the Highland League after that breakthrough almost two decades ago.
Six more titles were won - five with John Sheran in charge and one under Kevin Tindal -  before Cove clinched promotion up into the SPFL last summer.
“Once Peterhead, Caley and Elgin made the step up to the senior leagues Cove were always going to stand out,” he said.
“Their desire to follow them up to the next level will have had something to do with it, it was something that was always being spoken about.
“It was vital Cove showed they were the best in the league they were in and they did that.
“They still had to be patient because they saw bids to step up fall at the final hurdle on a couple of occasions.
“But they maintained high standards and made sure they were ready when the chance to finally step up arrived.”
Doug had spells in management, with Huntly and Junior side Banks o’ Dee, after hanging up his boots but is happy to be simply a spectator at matches now and has made several visits since Cove moved into Balmoral Stadium in 2018.
He was impressed by the way his old club were handling their debut in Ladbrokes League Two up until the Covid-19 enforced shut-down.
Doug said: “As has always been the case, Cove will continue to show ambition.
“I doubt if the side we are seeing now will resemble the one Cove are likely to be fielding in two or three years.
“As in any sport, players do their bit then are moved on when it’s felt better ones are required to take things up another level.
“But I’m sure those there now will, as I do, look back on their days as Cove players with pride and satisfaction.”

LEGEND: Doug Baxter at Balmoral Stadium earlier this season.

CUP GLORY: Cove Rangers celebrate after winning the 2001 Aberdeenshire Cup final at Pittodrie.