A common acceptance in the football world is that Aberdeen is a one club city. While Aberdeen Football Club grew out of three earlier clubs before it made an arrival in 1903 (the club was a merger of an earlier Aberdeen FC as well as Orion and Victoria United) for many years there was only one professional football club in the city.
But in May 2019 Cove Rangers were promoted into the lowest tier of Scottish Football – SPFL League 2 following a resounding play-off win against Berwick Rangers. Promotion made them the second professional team in the city after Aberdeen FC but the journey to the professional ranks has been far from simple.
Up until 1985 Cove Rangers were an amateur team.
Formed in 1922 the team played in the local Aberdeenshire Amateur Football leagues until 1985, when they became a junior team.
By 1986 they were regarded as the best team in Junior football in the North of Scotland winning the North Juniors First Division title for the last time in 1986.
Cove Rangers made an application to the Highland League in 1986 and they were admitted by the league committee thanks to the clubs superior infrastructure and local reputation.
Success came the way of the side by way of wins in local and regional cup competitions both in the late 80’s and during the 1990’s. It was not until the dominant Peterhead and Elgin City moved onto the senior league that Cove found the opportunity to dominate the Highland League set up.
In the first season after the two sides left (2001) Cove Rangers eventually won the Highland League title but even more impressively they also won the ‘treble’ of Highland League, Aberdeenshire Shield and Scottish Qualifying Cup.
Historically part of the north-east corner of Kincardineshire, Cove was governed from the county town of Stonehaven before it was added to the City of Aberdeen in 1975.
Though simply referred to as Cove, in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was also known as ‘The Cove’, before becoming Cove Bay around 1912.
The village itself sprung up around the fishing industry, with the boats berthed on a natural harbour not far from Allan Park.
From a few hundred people in the mid 19th century the village grew from a shellfish landing bay to a factory production area and granite mining suburb located in the City of Aberdeen.
Eventually the area started to grow further as a result of town dwelling city people from Aberdeen deciding to move to the suburbs in the south of the city after the war.
Allan Park and Amateurism
Established in 1947 the emergence of the Aberdeenshire Amateur FA could not have come at a better time for Cove Rangers.
To meet the demands of a place in the organised set up Cove Rangers moved into Allan Park. The ground was named after a local farmer who sold the club the land on which they set up a basic ground. Between 1948 and 1986 Cove Rangers won Division One (North) of the Amateur set up on 13 seperate occasions competing against the likes of Crombie Sports, Ellon United, Bon Accord, Culter and Hall Russell United.
Less than a few hundred yards from the jagged rocks that border the wind swept and unforgiving North Sea, Allan Park went from being a simple playing field in 1948 to a compact modern football ground that had room for 2,500 fans in 2010.
Hemmed in by housing and the lengthy Loirston Road that ran through the suburb, trains on the main east coast line passed by the ground on the way into Aberdeen station.
The rise to professionalism
By the 1970’s the suburb of Cove had became an affluent area of the city; properties were much saught after thanks to the growth of the oil industry in Aberdeen.
Just as the reputation of the area grew, so over a number of years Cove Rangers developed a formidable reputation in the domestic national Scottish Cup. In the 2007-08 season, Cove reached round four of the Scottish FA Cup for the first time before losing 4–2 to Ross County.
By 2014 the pitch at Allan Park was deemed too small to meet SFA Club Licensing criteria. A pyramid system of promotion and relegation had been agreed and Cove with its ambitious board hoped to gain entry to the top tier of professional football.
If those ambitions were to be achieved Cove Rangers were left with no option but to relocate to a new purpose built ground.
On 20th April 2015 Cove Rangers played its last game at Allan Park against Fort William winning the match 4-0. The club then sadly said goodbye to the surrounds of the compact glass faced main stand and its well regarded social club. The fans meanwhile wished goodbye to the small sloping pitch and concrete terracing as well as the views (and chills) from the North Sea that matchday would allow.
Allan Park welcomed the likes of Manchester United and Aberdeen to its compact surrounds over the years but it never saw professional football.
In November 2014 the go ahead was given by Aberdeen City Council for Cove Rangers to move to a new £5m site in Altens at Bobby Calder Park.
Although homeless for a few years Cove Rangers attained backing and sponsorship from the Balmoral Group and the first pictures of the new Balmoral Stadium emerged in 2016.
By 2018 Cove were able to welcome Gianni Infantino to the Balmoral Stadium thanks to the role of Alan McRae on the IFAB board. It would not be too long before SPFL football arrived and the future looks bright.
Now well established and with a bright future whether the new Balmoral Stadium becomes a home for young local talent is open to question. What is sure that the land on which the ground was build comes with a fine reputation at least in name. The Balmoral Stadium sits on land being named after the famous football scout Bobby Calder a one time referee and chief scout of Alex Ferguson.
Allan Park, Loirston Road, Cove Bay, Aberdeenshire, AB12 3NR