JOE Harper has applauded the decision to award Cove Rangers the Ladbrokes League Two title and promote the club up to the next flight.
The required majority of clubs backed the SPFL proposal to end the season in the lower divisions because the suspension of all football - caused by the Coronavirus outbreak-  is expected to continue for some time yet.
That also meant Cove being declared as champions, something Dons legend Joe - a frequent visitor to Balmoral Stadium - fully agreed with.
“It was clearly the right decision to make,” said Joe.
“It was obvious something had to be done to bring the season to a close because it would have been impossible to get it completed over the summer.
“They were never going to find a solution that would please every club, but what they have come up with is the best one in my view.
“And there can be no disputing the right of Cove Rangers to be seen as worthy champions of their division.
“They were 13 points clear of the second side when the lock down came into force.
“Cove had also won every match played so far at Balmoral Stadium, scored more goals than anyone else and had proved they were by far the best side in the division.
“It was all but inevitable that they would have won the league anyway - anyone who thinks otherwise simply isn’t being realistic.”

IMPRESSED: Joe Harper at Balmoral Stadium.

Joe believes the title triumph is a deserved reward for Cove Rangers chairman Keith Moorhouse and his board of directors for showing ambition by appointing Paul Hartley as manager last summer.
“It was a big step by them and it has paid off, “ said Joe, who recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the day he helped the Dons beat Celtic 3-1 in the 1970 Scottish Cup final.
“They were forced into making a change when John Sheran, who led them to so much success in the Highland League, was forced to step back.
“The Cove board set the crossbar high by then appointing Paul and his assistant Gordon Young, who had managed with success at much higher levels.
“Paul and Gordon then used their contacts within the game to add some real quality to  what was already a very strong and talented Cove squad.
“I’m talking about guys like Declan Glass (who was on loan from Dundee United in the first half of the season), Fraser Fyvie and Rory McAllister, players who helped push Cove’s performances up a level.
“All the good thanks that have happened to Cove can be traced back to the directors being able to see that - if they wanted to compete after making the step up - they had to bring in the right manager and give him the proper tools to work with.”

KEY TO SUCCESS: Joe Harper says the Cove Rangers board have been rewarded for their decision to bring in management team Gordon Young and Paul Hartley.

Aberdeen record scorer Joe also feels promotion will help Cove’s fan base in the north-east continue to grow.

“The crowds at their home games have been among the biggest in the division,” he said.

“It’s clear there is an appetite for a second senior side in Aberdeen and those fans have played their part.
“The atmosphere at the games I attended during the season was terrific and you could see it helped to inspire the Cove team, particularly when opponents were sitting in and trying to frustrate them.
“It’s no coincidence that Cove won a lot of their games with late goals, scored because their fans stayed with them all the way.
“Cove also have a growing travelling support who certainly make themselves heard as well.
“It’s only natural to think even more people will be keen to see them play now in an even higher division.”

FAN-TASTIC: Jamie Masson celebrates in front of the Cove Rangers fans at Balmoral Stadium.

Joe is convinced Cove can also compete well at League One level when the SPFL is eventually allowed to resume.
“It would be unfair to expect them to be as dominant as they were in League Two,” said Joe.
“They are going to be up against much stronger opponents, some of them full-time.
“But I’m confident they will prove a worthy asset to the division and will strengthen even further to make sure they are able to compete as well as is possible at this stage of the club’s development.”

SCORING ACES: Dons record goal grabbers Drew Jarvie and Joe Harper are regular spectators at Balmoral Stadium.