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The Luke Henderson Story

Finding a way in Scottish football
Started on 22 December 2019 by Luke Henderson
Latest Reply on 23 June 2020 by TheLFCFan
Incredibly unfortunate against Genk..
Things have certainly improved since I last got the chance to read this! A great season last year in the league, pushing Celtic hard. It's been an alright start to this season as well and hopefully with some good performances you can be challenging once again!

#062 - Ups and downs

20/12/2028 -- Last time you could argue with me when I was saying the league is nearly done already. Now we definitely could say the league is done. We didn’t played really bad or such, I just had the feeling we were a bit unlucky a few times. We compete with Celtic very well, but lost with one goal difference, outplayed both Raith Rovers and Motherwell, but they were extremely lucky we screwed a lot of chances and their only shot hits the goal… But you can’t win points on statistics only. The truth is we lost 7 points in these games, with Celtic only losing very surprisingly away against Inverness. The gap is already eleven points now, but Rangers and Aberdeen are also in front of us. So finishing second will be though either I think…

The league is done, but our European run is during at least till February! Although we were very unlucky again in both our games against Everton. By far the best team in group. But they are struggling heavily in the league, and we gave them a really good match especially at Goodison Park, but we couldn’t hold stand in the last ten minutes. Sadly, because gaining only one point out of these two matches would make a huge different. Than we can lose our last game against Racing Genk but qualifying for the next round anyway. That wasn’t the case, so we had to play a draw against them at minimum. After a difficult start we managed to score the equalizer just before half-time and when one of those Belgium guys was showed his second yellow card we pushed them back with Tompkins scoring another two goals! A brilliant result, although Genk helped us a bit. We finished second in the group, a result which I’m very pleased with. Although it will possibly end in the next round when we are playing against AS Monaco.

Our only chance for winning silver work is the Scotch Cup obvious. We already won the second round with huge numbers, but facing Saint Mirren in the third round was much tougher. For some reason we always play a difficult match against them, and that wasn’t very different today. But luckily Tompkins scored one of our chances, resulting in a fragile 0-1 win. In the next round we are playing against Clyde. They are acting in the Championship currently after they relegated last year. If we are not facing Rangers or Celtic to early than we have a fair chance to reach into the semi-final or maybe even the final. I’m going for it for sure and definitely not playing with my reserves in the rounds before! Hopefully we can straighten our backs a bit from now on to become a little bit closer to the second place in the league and so having a proper chance to qualifying ourselves for the Champions League again. Everything below finishing second will definitely not satisfying the board… Remember my contract is still expiring at the end of this season!

Note: Bad luck is written in the stars above Tynecastle Park for sure Scott! But, we'll keep our heads up, there is still something to play for. Good to have you back TheLFCFan. I'm updating quite frequently so I can imaginze you can't follow it these fast. Coming up next: our results over January and February.
Well done in Europe!
Tough to be out of the league running so early on but European performances will surely please the board enough to get that new contract. Monaco will be tough, but I have faith!

#063 - January and February summarized everything

03/03/2029 -- After our changeable results during the last matches we did handle to win a couple of matches in a row in December, but it wasn’t very convincingly at all. We won five games with only one goal difference, mostly against mid-table teams as well. Although a win is a win, but it was already a sign for the next month when everything went horribly wrong. We screwed a 1-0 lead against Celtic in the last ten minutes of the game, which ruined our very last chance to compete with them in the league a little while longer. We had nothing to tell against AS Monaco in both games however we handled not to lose the home game in some way, and were almost eliminated against Dundee United in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.

So currently there’s not much left to play for anymore. We didn’t win our home game against Rangers in the Scottish Cup quarter final, so winning the return will be nearly impossible I guess. It’s our only chance for winning a prize this season, but I’m not counting on it too hard. The draw is definitely not in our favour this year. If we win we have to play against Aberdeen in the next round who are performing really good this season and if we are reaching the final for some reason then we have to play again Celtic most likely... And so far it was already a though challenge with difficult matches all the way long… The league isn’t promising either. Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen are performing very solid, so I think we have to accept we are going to finish fourth this year. Really not great to be honest, but at least it confirmed we definitely overperformed a bit last year.

So yeah, it’s a bit of an unsatisfactory season I would say. Most of the players are achieving not as good as last season and I actually never had the feeling we are good enough to fight for some silverwork. Off course there are more reasons for it, the most important one being our squad depth. We couldn’t find any good players last summer and if we found one there was literally no money for paying a transfer fee or his demanded wage. Especially in our defensive line we currently haven’t any back-up player because the guy we have on loan is injured for about three months and beside of Scullion and Kenny we doesn’t have proper players who are good enough to play as a left or right midfielder. For that we can’t reach our normal level of football all the time. I think over the last two or three months we never played with exactly the same eleven players in two concatenated matches. Because of injuries, tired players and a very busy schedule I have to rotate players far more often then I like.

In the meantime I’m considered my own future. In the winter transfer window leaving Hearts became really really close. Not because of the board want to sack me for some reason, but Everton came in. They fired former Celtic manager Kettlewell after only five months because they are performing shit with being nineteenth in the league by the time. An awkward achievement if you take in count they were expected to finish seventh. I had a good job interview, they offered me a contract as well (which doubles my current wage by 20 times!) and from that moment I was doubting for days for accepting it or not. I delayed my decision a couple of times, but just a couple of days before I had to make the final decision I asked the Hearts board one more time for raising our transfer budget. Because we have more than £14,000,000 in the bank but no single coin for buying a new player. If they don’t accept my proposal I will leave, If they do I will stay at Hearts. I didn’t expect much of it, but surprisingly they agreed with me! Okay, I thought around £4,000,000 will be nice, but they gave me almost £9,000,000! Now we are talking. So, at the end I said no to Everton and we are going through with Hearts a little while longer, although my contract is still expiring at the end of this year…
It's hard to say whether turning down Everton was the right choice or not. What I will say is that your record with clubs - first with Spartans, then Hearts - has been to elevate the club to a certain level above that which they were, but then to stagnate for a season or two before considering your future. I think you're at that stage with Hearts. Limited budget to compete with long-established kings in Celtic, and what seems a long way off in the league is a lifetime on the European stage. At this point, I would be looking for my next move, even before the season ends... perhaps for a mid-table side in another country whose manager leaves for better things elsewhere.
Hopefully you've made the right decision to stay at Hearts. Everton would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one worth taking. I guess we'll never know!
A very interesting decision to not move on there. You have certainly done a god job at Hearts from where they were up to this point, but cracking that top three is looking a challenge. Although Everton are struggling at the moment it could of been a good step especially considering your contract is up in a few months. I hope you have made the right choice here!

#064 - And that’s number 18 for Celtic

19/05/2029 -- Of course we lost the return against Rangers in the Scotch Cup quarter final and of course Rangers surpassed us in the final round of the season, because of which we finished third. Normally good enough for qualifying ourselves for the next year's Europe League, until Aberdeen decides to beat Celtic in the final of the Scotch Cup. As almost every time we are doomed again and have to play in the European Conference League because of that. Moneywise there is not a really big difference between this two competitions, but it doesn't feel good at all. We had a solid end of the season and finishing behind Celtic and Rangers is definitely not bad, but it wasn't our best season obvious. As already said before I never had the feeling we were good enough to compete for some silverwork. Summarized it's a season to forget very soon. At the end the board offered me a new 2-year deal which I signed, but I keep my eyes wide open for another challenge, especially if a decent English side is popping up.

We go further straight into the yearly judgment. The moment every player fears! At least they should, ha-ha. Last year we didn’t do much because of our very limited budget, this year we finally have some money to splash and that will possibly affect the future for a couple of our players. But, first things first. We have two players who are running out of their contract and we will not seeing them back next year. First one is goalkeeper Zander Clark. He didn’t played a single match last season and at the age of 36 he decide to end his career. Unfortunately he doesn’t aspire a function as a staff member currently, which I believe he can because of his good mental skills. But at the ends it’s his own choice. I decided myself to take some distance from football the three years after I ended my own career, so I can’t argue with him at all. The second guy is called Kyle McAllister. A very useful sub because he can play nearly everywhere, but he doesn’t achieved what I’m expecting in terms of his statistics. I’m pretty sure he will find a decent new club, for many teams in the league or a decent English Championship side he will be a very valuable player. Uderneath I've shown the players statistics from this season.

Okay, we do it the other way around this time, to start with our strikers. Tompkins and Saunders did a good job again, although not as good as last year. Saunders signed a new contract, but he would only sign a new deal if it contains a transfer fee clause. So at the end there was not much choice I guess; hopefully the interested clubs are not offering more than £22,500,000. Storey disappointed me a little bit this year. Scoring only five goals in 34 appearances is way to less, even for a left winger, which position he filled in quite often as a replacement for Scullion. But I’m not writing him off already, he is still quite young so there is some more space for developing himself. So, everything summarized we go further with our current strikers.

Most of our midfielders are still on a decent level. Centres Cochrane, Mimnaugh and Caldwell performed well again, only Darcy was a little bit disappointingly. But as a back-up player he is still usable. Lewis Ferguson is not good enough and will left us. His contract is not expiring yet, but we will cooperate with his departure if a interested club is coming in. Scullion as a left midfielder is still one of my best players, so he will stay for sure. But at the right hand side of the pitch Lloyd Kenny is not performing stable enough. He is rated too often a four or a nine. He needs to stabilize his performances, otherwise I think next season will be his last at Hearts. Youngster Craig McNeill played a good amount of matches, but didn’t convinced me much so far. Just as last season our main priority will be a search for a new left- and right midfielder to create more squad depth.

Our defensive line is not bad, but I think it needs an upgrade if we want to improve. All of our fullbacks played not that great throughout the season and that will have consequences. In the first place I’m pretty much done with Ryan Burke. When I had a chat wit him at some point that he needs to improve his level of football he didn’t agreed. If he thinks he is achieving good enough then he is wrong. His contract is not expiring, but if some club is interested we will probably letting him go for a small amount of money. Imrie will stay as our left fullback. Our right fullbacks didn’t any better to be honest, although Bryson had a good last run at the end of the season. Because of that he will staying, but if we can find a replacement for MacGregor we will probably go for it. Our centre backs performed okay. Strang and Williams are definitely staying, but Reddie will return to Everton. He was injured almost the entire second half of the season, which harmed our results and his chances to prove himself. I’m not fully convinced. Findlay didn’t play much, he will be our twentieth (or so) reserve player for another season because his contract is not expiring yet. So we are searching for a new player at every position in our defensive line, meaning a new left and right full- or wingback and two centre backs from which one of them hopefully is an upgrade in comparison with Strang and Williams so I have something to choose.

Our goalkeepers then… Sigh… It was a pain in the ass, is a pain in the ass and will always be a pain in the ass I guess. Stone did his job last season, but because he is tiny he isn’t my cup of tea to be honest. He is to doubtful at high balls and doesn’t show enough confidence. He also dives under the ball far more often than I like. It’s a bit of a repeat every time, but we will searching for a new goalkeeper again, although everybody of you probably know finding a good goalkeeper without having a lot of money to spend is nearly impossible. So I guess we probably have to deal with Stone for another season… Underneath I’ve shown our current financial situation. Next update I will do our pre-season run together with our first new signings.

Note: Thanks guys for the support again. Now I have even more doubts if I did make the right decision to stay at Hearts. I turned down Everton mainly because they were nineteenth by the time, so getting relegated could be possible, which maybe affects my current reputation (which is 3,5 star currently). But I also have the feeling I'm not done with Hearts yet. I'm still building on it. I strongly have the feeling we can make a difference if we can sign a couple of good players, which is possible now. But maybe it is against better jugdment... Coming up next: pre-season result and we signed some guys!
A massive season ahead. It will go a long way into deciding whether you made the right decision to stay or not.

#065 - We’re on our way

04/08/2029 -- Under while I’m getting a headache for all the doubting! Again it’s really had to attract good players who are fitting in our transfer- and wage budget. We are slightly under way, but definitely not there yet. Before I present the first three new signings I will show you our pre-season results first. We performed not bad at all, given the fact I have made some major tweaks to our tactics. I want to play our lines very tight to each other and so creating more space for dangerous outbreaks and more defensive security at the same time. It worked out pretty good this far, but of course we can criticism the new tactic only after we played a handful of official matches. Our schedule for the first month is quite tough. We are facing Celtic in the opening game of the season and quite soon afterwards we are playing Rangers at home and immediately there after Hibernian away. Together with our European and Cup matches we have to make sure we do have enough squad depth by the time.

So, me together with the technical staff are very busy for finding new players who could really make a difference. That is accompanied by a lot of doubts. We could our available money only spend once, so we need to be pretty sure every signing will be an improvement. We don’t have a new goalkeeper yet, but we signed a left fullback, a centre back who can play as a right and left back as well and a back-up central midfielder. Colin Spence is replacing Lewis Ferguson, but he is both physically and mentally an upgrade in comparison with Ferguson. We signed him on a free from Aberdeen. Again from Aberdeen! I think he’s already the fourth or fifth player we took over from them since I joined Hearts. As I said, he is not on a big wage and will mainly be used as a reserve player. Because of we signed Spence we don’t need Ferguson anymore. Dundee United paid £450,000 for him, almost as much we paid ourselves for him. Everybody happy.

Spence is also our only new player on a free. From now on we have to spend cash because all other free agents are not good enough or they are asking to much wage. But we didn’t spend much for the next guy. I already made him an offer last transfer window, but he doesn’t want to leave Kilmarnock already because they picked him up as a free agent only a year ago. A very good catch for them I would say, although I was a little bit pissed off at the same time none of my scouts made a report of him when he was a free agent. Now we had to pay £1,8000,000 for him. Not a very big prize for his qualities, but for us every transfer fee we have to pay is limiting our transfer budget quite rapidly. But I think Matthew McIlroy is definitely worth it. He is only 20-years old yet, he is Scottish and he can even play as a right or left back if needed, although we use him as a centre back of course. He is very tall (which I looked at in the first place for a centre back), physically and mentally quite good and his main attributes for defending are also very good already. There is a lot of space for developing himself as well, so I think we just have signed the future centre back for the Scottish national squad. He will be my starting player together with Strang, which means 30-year old Ro-Shaun Williams has dropped in the pecking order.

Our third signing is replacing Irishman Ryan Burke, who has left the club to join Airdrieonians. This time we paid around £2,300,000 for Danish youngster Ken Nissen. A very promising 18-year old left fullback, although he can play as a wingback as well, which can be quite useful in certain circumstances. I’m very delighted with this guy to be honest. Mentally and physically he is already a beast and his main technical attributes aren’t bad either. Take in count he is only 18, so there is a lot of space to develop himself as well.

After this three signings we have two main targets left. A back-up left-midfielder is by far the most urgent position we need to fill in because Scullion has picked up a serious injury just a day ago. He is out for the next four months, which is very frustrating because he is one of my best players. So we definitely need a new left midfielder now for sure. And as soon as possible as well because we literally don’t have any player who can fill in this position properly. We are also still in a search for a new goalkeeper. But it is really, really though. Basically we have only one choice, and if we can’t afford him or he didn’t want to join Hearts, then we have to do it with Stone and Graham again. Although we have to start the season with Graham in the first place because Stone is injured as well… So, not the best circumstances to start the new season, but we are trying to make the best of it.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot to say one thing. You could possibly know it already because I didn’t talked about it yet, but our youth intake was just horrible again… It’s even one of the most disgusted intakes I have ever seen before since I’m playing FM I think. An amazingly one-and-a-half star potential for the best kid we had… I’m getting sick of it to be honest. It’s like this during more than ten seasons in a row currently. Zero talents in my six years at Spartans (which could happen because it’s a tiny club) but only having one decent talent (Saunders) so far in my four years period at Hearts is just… Even more if you take in count that all the circumstances are there, we have the facilities, we are spending millions for youth recruitment, but it just don’t sort out anything. And on top of that: we are the biggest club in the whole eastern half of the Scottish Central Belt. A very big backyard I would say. But every randomly picked Championship side (or even League one clubs) within our area seems to have better youth talents than we have… It’s annoying me heavily. I don’t have the idea I do something horribly wrong (I have searched for it on the communities already), it’s just a random thing in FM which isn’t really with me this far… One of the more satisfying things to do in Football Manager is getting a talented player (or even a wonderkid!) from the academy which you slowly introduce into your first squad and following his developments further on. But only having one in ten years is way to low to keep myself motivated for playing the game… So yeah, I guess we have to buy players over and over again to keep Hearts on a certain level of football!
Perhaps all these bad youth intakes are building up to an absolute gold-mine of a youth prospects soon. You can hope!

#066 - Roll the dice

23/09/2029 -- Scoring a lot, conceding a lot. It’s a bit of a strange start of the season so far. And I’m not figured out yet if it is because our new players, the tweaks I made in our tactic, the fact we played our away games against a couple of decent mid-table clubs who were extremely lucky with their result against us or… Our goalkeepers. The nearby future will make some things clear I hope, otherwise this will be a lost season for the league already… But, for the first time the board has downgraded their expectations! They expecting me to finish within the first five only and so qualifying ourselves for the European Conference League. That’s even a huge downgrade I would say. The last three years they wanted to battle for the league title… For some reason not anymore, which is a good thing I suppose. It seems they finally woke up from their dreams and returned back into reality…

The first one-and-a-half-month of the season was quite intense I would say. A lot happened in a short time. Therefor I will talk you through this period in a chronical order, rather than presenting the results or transfers separately. To start with the match against Celtic. As already said in the last update we had to play without Scullion and with our last season third goalkeeper… Which is the guy with the magnificent double name, Graham Graham. Definitely not the best circumstances, but we played a really good game surprisingly! After only twelve minutes Tompkins scored twice already and short after the pause he completed his hattrick, securing three points for us. A flying start of the season I would say! There after we managed to win the first leg against Greece side Aris Saloniki with Spence scoring at his debut. But the following match against Dundee United away we were extremely unlucky. We hit the woodwork four(!) times before they scored a goal from the only chance they’ve got suddenly from nowhere. We weren’t able to force a turnaround, despite we had 70% possession. It was just one of those days I guess…

In the meantime the end of the transfer window is coming closer, but we didn’t sign more new players yet, although we are still very busy to negotiate with some potential newbies. We handled to win the return game against Aris quite easily and so qualifying ourselves for the last preliminary round in which we are facing Norwegian side Strømsgodset. That should be possibly. After the game against Aris we could finally present our new left-midfielder for backing-up Scullion. We bought Alan Woods from Queens Park Rangers for £1,300,000. I’m not fully convinced, but it was the best we could get. He’s more or less a similar player in comparison with Scullion, although he is even taller! His physicals are very good, mentally okay and his main technical attributes are decent.

We immediately played him against Livingston which can be described as a remarkable match. I really don’t know what just happened, but for some reason they scored three goals from the only three shots they had with Woods saving a point for us in the additional time. He is proving himself immediately, but I was furious about the performance from Harry Stone, our first goalkeeper. All of their shots seems to be easy to save, but he didn’t… It’s strengthened my thoughts immediately that we definitely need a new goalkeeper right now. Whether he is better or not, we just have to change something. This can’t be going on like this… We should win this kind of games very easily, but again we lost points…

So the next match I used our third goalkeeper again, Graham Graham. But it wasn’t much better… Strømsgodset managed to score only two goals in the four matches they already played in the second and third qualifying round, against way smaller teams than we are as well. But against us they scored three times, two of them being an absolute missile from distance… Of course... Thomas fucking Hitzlsperger has joined Strømsgodset apparently… But luckily we scored seven(!) goals, which should be enough. I hope… In the next game we smashed Greenock Morton with Woods scoring again and Tompkins taking care for another hattrick. He is definitely on fire this season. Saunders isn’t in his best period, hopefully he can pick up some form soon. In the return against Strømsgodset they scored again… Twice. We handled to win the game with 3-2, but conceding five goals over two matches against a bunch of amateurs without even playing extremely attacking is worrying me heavily…

It was the final push in my decision to buy a new goalkeeper. After some really tough and long (it took more than two months) negotiations we have our long wanted new goalkeeper. We had to spend all the money we’ve got, and on top of that it was also needed to exceed our wage budget heavily for offering him the maximum contract we possibly could, but it’s definitely necessary. I have lost all my faith in Stone and Graham so we just had to do it. Scottish international David Rae has joined Hearts for around £5,500,000. He is coming over from Celtic. I’m really glad with this guy. He is tall enough, his technical and physical skills are very good and of course being Scottish is always a huge benefit for me. Mentally he has to improve a little bit more I think, but he is way better than Stone and Graham will ever be. Together.

We played Rae immediately in our second round Scottish League Cup game against League One side Caledonian Braves. It was an easy victory with Rae taking care for a clean sheet immediately. But the next game went horribly wrong again. Again we lost points in the league against Motherwell in a game in which everything which could possibly going wrong was going wrong. After only two minutes Rae scored an own goal… You’re kidding… Game, why are you doing this to me? A terrible back pass from Nissen (although he had a lot of space to play the ball ahead) hits the post and in an ultimate attempt from Rae to save the ball he hits the ball on his knee and the ball bounced between the poles… This is really not going to be our season, I have some kind of strange feeling about it already… Although Kenny scored the equalizer it wasn’t possible to win this game. Directly after the pause Cochrane collected his second yellow card, and of course they scored a minute later immediately… We tried to play more attacking, but just before the final whistle they took advantage from the large spaces and scored the liberating 3-1. I think we could say the league is already done this year… A very hard conclusion already, but we can’t ignore it. To become the champion you could only lost between ten to fifteen points maximum throughout the season, and we are already on seven now… After only five matches… Which means we have to win at least 30 matches out of the 33 we have to play yet, which is definitely not going to happen… I’m really really sad about it. I really thought we did a good job on the transfer market, which we did for sure, but it doesn’t sort out on the pitch so far. At the end we won our first game in the group stage against BATE which we definitely had to if we want to make a change for reaching into the next round. From the other two opponents Dinamo Kiev is the biggest club in Ukraine with a lot of money and Angers is performing really well in France over the last five years and is also a very rich club. Finishing second will be difficult I think in what is believed the strongest group. And of course we are in it…

The most annoying part of our changeable results is the fact I strongly have the feeling it has nothing to do with our tactics. The performances from all of the individuals are very good (nearly the whole squad - excepting our goalkeepers of course - is rated on a seven or above, which is better than all seasons before) and we have won most of the matches we should have win. I mean, we even beat Celtic in the very first game! I kept hoping we were just extremely unlucky in the matches against Dundee United, Livingston and Motherwell, which will become clear very soon if we are winning against this kinds of teams (or not). Although that might be difficult to conclude given the fact we are now playing against Rangers and our rivals Hibs away… These two matches are very crucial now. It can break our season immediately or gives us a boost to renew our faith in the working methods we use and the fact we actually can play football on the level we pursue.

Note: Ha-ha, you're a funny guy Scott! I lost all hope for it already! It will probably not return into positivity until the moment I actually see a gem myself in our youth academy. Coming up next: can we still rescue this season?
The goalkeeper situation has been a plague at Hearts since the very start. One day you'll manage to find the right number one to sign.

A tough group in Europe. Good luck!

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