EVERYONE WHO HELPED COVE COME THROUGH THE PLAY-OFFS SHOULD BE REMEMBERED AS CLUB LEGENDS
THE first anniversary of the day when Cove Rangers’ biggest dream finally became a reality is almost upon us.
May 18, 2019 at Shielfield Park: Berwick Rangers 0, Cove Rangers 3.
Goals from Jamie Masson, Jordon Brown and Paul McManus completed an astonishing 7-0 aggregate victory over our hosts in the SPFL Pyramid Play-off final and secured promotion up into League Two.
It’s an afternoon that no Cove Rangers fan will ever forget.
To mark the anniversary, we asked club football director JOHN SHERAN, who was still team manager a year ago, to share his memories of that season and the events before and after the crucial game at Berwick.
“That day in Berwick was the highlight of my career in management, without a doubt.
“It was also a worrying time for me personally because I was still recovering from suffering a heart attack just after we had finished our Highland League campaign.
“It meant I was unable to celebrate as I would normally have done when we completed the job at Berwick.
“I’m told the journey back up the road on the team bus was something else.
“I would have loved being in the middle of all that with the players and the rest of the coaching staff.
“But any disappointment over that was totally overshadowed by the sheer joy we all felt that day because we had finally won promotion into the SPFL.
“It was something a fair number of us had been working towards for about five or six years.
“We also knew there were people at Cove Rangers who had been dreaming of seeing it happen for decades.
“Our determination to finally get the job done was fuelled by the sense of injustice felt about the way we had lost to Cowdenbeath in the play-offs the year before - and the pain we all felt when we lost to Edinburgh City a couple of years before that.
“We were all angry and hurting when we left Central Park after the defeat by Cowdenbeath.
“But we knew couldn’t allow that to eat into us, it was important to use it to make sure we earned the right to get another crack at the play-offs.
“That meant winning the Highland League again, which I can assure you is one of the toughest tasks in the Scottish game.
“There are some cracking teams in there and we knew we would need to win the majority of our games if we were to have any chance of coming out on top.
“That’s a daunting challenge for part-time players, especially when we were asked to play midweek games away from home at the likes of Keith, Inverness Clachnacuddin and Fort William.
“But the players showed their quality and character because they knew the likes of Brora Rangers, Fraserburgh or Formartine United were well capable of taking advantage if we failed to maintain our high standards.
“If they hadn’t then we could easily have lost out to Brora, who deserve great credit for pushing us all the way to the last couple of games.
“We also knew we needed to make sure we were better prepared for the play-offs third time around.
“It was clear pretty early on that the Highland League champions would be facing East Kilbride in the play-off semi-final so we had them watched a few times.
“We changed our tactics a bit in the final weeks to make sure the players were well used to how we would need to be set up if we were the ones who ended up playing them.
“It was a big ask in games we knew we also had to win to see off the challenge of Brora, but the players handled what was asked of them in style.
“My own hopes of being on the touchline in the play-offs were wrecked, of course, when I suffered my heart attack.
“But I had total faith that the players and my coaching team would be able to see things through without me.
“Graeme Mathieson, Roy McBain, Mike Pirie and the rest of the backroom staff deserve huge credit for the work they did to make sure what happened didn’t impact on our chances in any way.
“Graeme and Roy in particular made sure the players were well prepared and ready to perform at their best for the biggest games in Cove’s history.
“That meant we were able to beat East Kilbride 5-1 over the two legs to get us into the final for the second season in a row.
“It was the same when we played Berwick.
“Our performance in the first leg was one of the best I’ve ever seen from a Cove Rangers side.
“Graeme, Roy and the rest of the lads got it spot on and the 4-0 win made sure we would be heading to Berwick in a very strong position.
“We never took anything for granted, though.
“We never have at Cove.
“We knew Berwick would be fired up to save themselves from relegation.
“People tend to forget it took some outstanding defending by Ryan Strachan and Scott Ross to prevent Berwick pulling a goal back in the early stages at Shielfield Park.
“If they had scored it might have ended up being a very uncomfortable afternoon.
“Thankfully, it wasn’t and I was delighted I was able to go down from the stand and spend the last 15 minutes or so in the dugout with the rest of the lads.
“The scenes when the final whistle went will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“I will never forget the joy on the faces of the Cove Rangers fans and everyone connected with the club especially Duncan Little and Keith Moorhouse.
“It was a total contrast to how we all felt the year before.
“When I left Shielfield Park that night I was still thinking I would be fit enough to return and lead us in League Two.
“We had already signed Jamie Redman and discussed other transfer targets before I went on holiday in early June but
“What changed my mind was seeing my friend Ian Wilson (the former Scotland international) suffering a second health scare about a month after he had first taken unwell.
“That convinced me that I had to put my family first, which brought about the changes we saw at the club last summer.
“The arrival of Paul Hartley and his coaching team meant some of the people who had given Cove Rangers tremendous service left.
“It’s a fact of life in football that there are always changes.
“We strengthened the squad every summer when I was manager.
“You have to do that if you want to compete at the top end, no matter what league you are playing in.
“I imagine it will be the same this time as we prepare for our first season as a League One club.
“We will have to strengthen because we are going to be playing a level above what we have ever experienced before.
“It’s inevitable there will be casualties - but those who left us in 2019 had earned the right to be remembered as legends for their contributions to what was a memorable season for our club.
“I’m not just speaking about Graeme and Roy.
“You also have to praise the likes of club captain Eric Watson - who was an inspirational figure even though he wasn’t playing as often as he would have liked at the stage - as well some other players, back room staff and also the directors who have since left Balmoral Stadium.
“We must never forget the parts they all played in our success in 2019.
“They helped to lay down the foundations for all of the good things that have happened since with Paul and his team.
“What really pleases me is a lot of the players who helped win the play-off are still at the club.
“It was thrilling to see the likes of Connor Scully, Blair Yule and Harry Milne, who were just kids when they first got involved with Cove Rangers, playing important parts to help us win League Two and set up what is sure to be another exciting adventure for the club next term.
“Paul, of course, deserves huge credit for the way he has applied the finishing gloss to a squad that had shown their special qualities during that astonishing season, during which we actually won a trophy treble of league title, Highland League Cup and Aberdeenshire Cup.
“That was highlighted when they capped it all off on that historic day at Berwick a year ago that none of us will ever forget.”