Rangers trip is biggest in Cove's history - but Paul Hartley's priority is Clyde

Playing Rangers at Ibrox will be the biggest match in Cove Rangers’ history – but Paul Hartley will sacrifice some of his players to prioritise on Clyde.

Cove Rangers Manager Paul Hartley during a Scottish Cup tie between Alloa Athletic and Cove Rangers at The Indodrill Stadium, on January 09, 2021, in Alloa, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Cove Rangers Manager Paul Hartley during a Scottish Cup tie between Alloa Athletic and Cove Rangers at The Indodrill Stadium, on January 09, 2021, in Alloa, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The lower league suspension, allied with television scheduling which has moved the Scottish Cup tie to an unorthodox 6.30pm Sunday evening kick-off, means Cove only have 48 hours between the glamour game and a key league fixture on Tuesday night.

Sunday’s occasion may be the biggest, but Tuesday’s three points could be bigger in the long-term.

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Hartley’s side sit just four points off his old club Falkirk at the top of League One, and harbour hopes of moving into the Championship. While everyone wants a piece of the Ibrox action amongst the squad, some tough decisions will have to be made to maintain the club’s promotion campaign.

Cove Rangers celebrate Ryan Strachan's late winner during a Scottish Cup tie between Alloa Athletic and Cove Rangers at The Indodrill Stadium, on January 09, 2021, in Alloa, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“It is part and parcel of being a manager,” Hartley admitted. “Some players will be fine with it but I have tried to explain all along that we have not seen a schedule like this before. I have told them they will play one week but might not feature the following week.

“There is no point picking players after going flat out for 90 minutes and I can't get anything out of them on Tuesday night.

“It is about trying to pick a team that will compete, but will also have one eye on Tuesday, which is the most important thing for us.”

Drawing one of the tournament’s big guns away usually means a cash bonanza – a share of the gate, maybe TV money too – and the big stage glamour. Not this weekend. With no fans, Cove have attempted to make up the shortfall with a virtual ticket initiative among both clubs’ supporters. And there will still be a big matchday element missing for the players on the day too.

Cove Rangers Manager Paul Hartley celebrates with match winner Ryan Strachan at Full Time during a Scottish Cup tie between Alloa Athletic and Cove Rangers at The Indodrill Stadium, on January 09, 2021, in Alloa, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“It is the biggest game in the club’s history,” Hartley added. “Quite a few of them have never played there before and the disappointment for the players is that there will be no fans there – but they are on television and the platform is there.

“Also financially, what we would have made in any other circumstances if we had fans in would have been a lot of money and we are having to spend a lot with the protocols and testing.”

That said, Hartley is just relieved to be back playing and getting the go ahead for the game after 10 weeks out of action in the lower leagues.

"It has been a long time - I remember when the draw was made. We are just happy that we are back playing.

Paul Hartley has led Alloa, Dundee and Falkirk at Ibrox as a manager and played for Hearts and Celtic.

“We had a 10 week period where we had no football whatsoever and then a two week period of trying to get back training which hasn’t been ideal.

“After the Alloa game [in the last round] the players were on such a high, to get stopped again was frustrating.

“Over the three league games we have tried to get everybody up to speed. I have given everyone minutes as best I could.

“Obviously everyone wants to play on Sunday. I get that. It is the biggest game of their careers and the club’s history.

“I have got a few decisions to make over who I play.”

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