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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 14 October 2020 by Karter Mitchell

#009 - Winter transfers and their performances

03/02/2020 -- The first half of the season has come to an end, so is the winter transfer window. As already said a couple of updates ago we finally have our new goalkeeper at Ainslie Park. A really good upgrade in comparison with Carswell, hopefully he is more capable catching shots from distance… If you take a look at the profiles between those two Adam definitely is the better goalkeeper. Probably Adam is directly send into the squad because of Carswell made some dubious decisions again in the match against Forres Mechanics, in what was believed his last opportunity extending his role as a starting player. Otherwise Carswell has been maintain in the squad until he made one fatal mistake again, but right now it seems all over for him. Underneath I’ve shown the profile of Adam and the comparison with Carswell.

But there's more. Firstly we lost two guys who are loaned to us. For one of them we won’t extend his loan contract till the end of the season because our expectations are far ahead in comparison with his actual achievements. So right-winger Leeroy Makovora is returning to our Premiership affiliated club Hearts. The Zimbabwean played 20 matches, scoring only two goals. The other guy is no longer available for us for hiring. Jake Davidson returned to Dundee United and his club declined our offer extending his loan contract until the end of the season. A bit disappointingly though, because the last two months he became a starting player and performed quite well.

But we are probably saved by our great scouting staff. Somewhere around the Christmas days they found Mark Finlayson. A free agent who left Falkirk a year ago and played for an amateur team somewhere in the outskirts of Livingston, a city near Edinburgh. We offered him a 7 days internship, played a friendly match with our second squad and he made a good impression. So we decide to offer him a contract, which he signed. At least he is as good as Davidson was, but to be honest I think he is more than that. Another big plus is that he can play as a full-back as well.

That’s not all yet. We definitely have to replace Makovora because McFarland is not performing that great as a backup. We tried to loan somebody in, but we already hired the maximum of four players this season, despite two of them already left us. So I made the decision to move youngster Bill Swanson into the first team. He performed quite good in our under-18 team and the scouts do believe he has some great potential. We shall see if he can replace McFarland. I also shifted left-back Gregor McFarlane and central midfielder Robbie Banks into the first team, mainly because of current left-back Graham Doig performs really bad and Banks is believed to be a good player for the nearby future. Furthermore we get rid of some players who can’t count on to many playtime at the moment and dumped some talents who probably never going to reach into the first squad. For some of them we managed to get a resale fee of 50 percent, so maybe we can earn some little money from them in the future.

Our performances with the new guys
The big question of course is how we performed with our newbies. After a win and a loss just before the end of the year we started against Bonnyrigg Rose. They are a few points above us in the league, so three points are welcome. But we started really, really bad. After only ten minutes we conceded two goals from set-pieces (which is by far our biggest weakness, most of the goals we conceding so far this season are from set-pieces actually) and a big loss lies ahead. But we scraped ourselves together and in the second half our 16-year old striker Bryan Griffiths forced to score a goal twice, saving a point for us. Thereafter we loss a bit unluckily against the bottom team in the League, but win our following away game against Cumbernauld.

The start of February will be very though. We are facing the best three teams in the league in a row, starting with a home game against leader Brora Rangers. Away we played a draw, but today they were simply too good for us. We had some chances to score a late equalizer, but that hadn’t been a fair result to be honest. So, in summary, we performing not that good at the moment and really need to pick up some form soon if we want to fight for a place in the play-offs. A couple of wins can bring us back in the top six again, but at the other hand a few losses can be devastating given the fact all midtable teams are quite close to each other right now. Underneath I've showned the results this far and the league table (which is from before the match against Brora actually, I forgot taking a picture after the 29th playing round).

Tidy couple of additions, however, a shame that you dropped out of the Play Off spots at the beginning of February. Not too long to turn this around, but still very much possible indeed with a good run of form in the final few months.
A tough start with the new signings, hopefully once they find their feet in the side you can move back up the league table.
Echoing the words of those above, hopefully you can push on in the remaining months.

#010 - Play-offs? Maybe!

11/04/2020 -- Only four games left now, but still we have a good change to reach into the final stage of the season, the play-offs! After our loss against Brora Rangers at the beginning of February we played an enjoyable game against Rothes. Again we conceded two early goals, but just before half time we pushed them back and via a penalty and a good header we fight us back in the game with a 2-2 draw at half time. After the pause we picked up our good spirit and forced a goal again, but ten minutes before the end Rothes scored the 3-3. We didn’t gave up and only a minute later Griffiths scored his twelfth goal of the season, delivering three very important points. After that we defeated runner-up Deveronvale, bringing us back on a play-off spot in the league table.

But we weren’t capable to perform more steadily. From the next seven games we only managed to win two of them, played a draw two times as well and lost three away games. Not enough to create some space with the teams around us, but still we do have a fair chance to reach the play-offs, giving us a backdoor chance promoting to the Championship. Although that might be way to soon given the current situation of the club. We are three points behind the sixth position, but from the four games that are left, we play two of them against our direct competitors. So it will be in our own hands, but given the fact that our form is quite unstable at the moment I think we need a little miracle to make it happen.

With the near ending of the season, our backroom staff is already busy for the following season. We can announce that we just have signed a new player who is running out of his contract at the end of the season (I will reveal him later on). We also have a more clearer vision right now which players are going to leave us at the end of the season and which of them earned a new contract. Under while we have had our youth intake, which was very delightful, although nobody is good enough at the moment to send him immediately into the first team. I will probably tell more about the new youngsters at the end of the season. If we don’t reach into the play-offs I will do a season overview and reveal some transfer and contract news, otherwise the next update is completely devoted to the final stretch of the season.

Note: Thanks guys for the support! Hopefully we can reach into the play-offs, but it will not that disappointingly if we don't. I think our squad depth is not good enough at the moment, but from the other teams neither I suppose. So it probably will be a flip of a coin if we make it or not to be honest...
It's very close either way. Form has been patchy, but who knows how things may fair in the last few games. Either way, it's been a good season for Henderson and the team.

#011 - No guts no glory

23/05/2020 -- The last couple of matches Henderson has tweaked his tactics from the second half on slightly into a more positive way of playing football. So for the last four games of the season he made the decision to start with his changed tactic, which worked out quite good when he used it before. “If you want to win something, you may need to take some risk.” Henderson said. “The first game is against Lossiemouth, who are into a hard relegation fight. So it will probably be a tough game, but under normal circumstances we definitely have to win it.” And so we did. Griffiths and Ashmore scored two important goals before half time and Lossiemouth didn’t managed to get back in the game, despite their goal. The next two games ended in a draw. Not that bad given the fact they are our direct competitors, but we actually had to win one of them to hold everything in our own hand.

The last game. If we win and the results in the other games sort out in our advance perfectly, then we are still qualified for the play-offs. But we didn’t... Away against Huntly, who are already relegated, we played just terrible after a splendid start and lost with 2-1. It summarized our whole season pretty much, the results were just not stable enough. Despite our loss, if we did won the last game we ended still seventh in the league because of the results in the other games didn’t help us very much. So that mitigates a little bit. Just a bit…

The lack of a longer period of constant results in the second half of the season together with being quite unlucky in a couple of games has broken us down. We definitely had a good chance ending within the first six, but it was not given for us. Ending eight is not that bad, but it isn’t that good either. Surely not if you take in count that we were turned off in the cup tournaments quite soon as well. But, a little glimmer at the horizon: there is a lot of space to perform better next season! If the board decides to go further with me as their manager of course… Underneath I have shown the last results, the final league table and the overview for all competitions we participated in.

Looking ahead for next season, who is going to leave us?
Beside our performances on the pitch the technical staff was already busy for next season. Players who run out of their contracts, new youngsters who needs to be introduced and probably the most important, searching for new players who can strengthen our first team. First thing we had to do was to make a selection of players which we wanted to stay at the club. For a couple of them we made the decision in the last week before their contract ends, but for most of the players it’s pretty clear what is going to be happen.

Goalkeeper Grant Adam has proven himself and stay for another season. Carswell is going to left us, as well Christopher Peden, who is currently still on loan. Our new backup goalkeeper will be Paul Lamont, who is shifted from our B-squad. Our defence is probably undergoing the biggest change because a lot of oldies are written off. John Ovenstone is now a full staff member and not longer a player anymore. The 37-year old left-back will extend his work as a scout for us, which he did quite well already last season, with some good discoveries. Michael Bolochoweckyj also retired from playing football. Throughout the season he gradually loses his position in the starting eleven in favour of Graham Doig. But it seems the central defender has some really good numbers for being our new head of youth development, which we don’t have at the moment. Probably we can introduce him very soon in his new function if we can agree an agreement.

Blair Tolmie doesn’t seemed good enough, so his contract will not be extended. He only played two games for us last season. Aiden Gibb is send back to Celtic. He performed steadily as a backup option for Morrison, but didn’t convinced us that much. The couple of defenders we send on loan to lower league sides aren’t good enough and all of them are left us when they run out of their contract. Finlayson (who came in as a free agent and performed really good), Corbett, Doig and Gregor McFarlane have all signed a new contract, as well as Morrison did. A bit of a surprise, because of Premier League side Aberdeen made him an offer as well.

Our midfield was performing quite decent throughout the season. Max Ashmore proofed himself as our best player and of course his contract is lengthened. Youngsters Robbie Banks (who came into the squad halfway the season), Joe Tait and Dale Baxter all signed a new contract as well. Also wingers Bill Swanson, Bryan Shields and Scott Maxwell extended their contract with another year. As said already Ian McFarland is going to leave us. Finally the loan term of Woods is ending. He played a good amount of games, but we prefer playing with our own players instead of a guy on loan who is not obvious better.

The most important position in the squad, our striker, was a bit of a concern last season. None of our strikers performed quite well until 16-year old Bryan Griffiths was coming in. Despite he had some periods without scoring goals, he was by far the most consistent striker. I’m a bit annoyed about this fact, because of Smith, Reid and Murrell all seemed quite capable to become a successful striker on this level of football. But sometimes it just don’t sort out the right way. So we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Smith. We keep Reid as a backup, mainly because he can play as an attacking central midfielder as well. Murrell is still quite young, so we give him a second opportunity to proof himself. Also a few players from our B-squad and under-18 team are running out of their contract which is not going to be extend, but you’ll guys probably never heard of them. So trust me they are just shit and not even a notice worth it. Underneath I have shown the statistics for the whole squad from last season.

Our new signings so far
We made already two signings for next season. There are some players more we are following with big interest, but we are extremely careful, because of we can hire four players as well next season. Of course it’s way too early right now for the big clubs to decide which players are available for loan next season, so we need to be patience. That’s why we only sign players in which we really believe they can strengthen our squad. The first guy is signed already a couple of months ago. Me, together with the scouts, where very disappointed in the performances of right-winger Ian MacFarland so we searched for another player at his position. We found Alberto Vezza from Queen of the South. Besides being very quick, he has some decent technical and mental skills as well. Hopefully this 20-year old winger can create more chances and pick up some goals far more often than MacFarland (or Makovora) has done last season.

Our second signing is a little bit of a surprise. We managed to sign the top goalscorer in our league from Deveronvale, who are promoted to the Championship. Maybe this guy could be thought he is not good enough performing on a higher level. Anyway, I’m pretty delighted with him. None of our strikers has proven himself last season except Griffiths, despite all of them have had their chance for a longer run of games. Let me introduce you Scott Dunn. This 27-year old striker is a big upgrade and together with Griffiths he needs to banging in goals next season. A lot of goals. Next update I will try to describe for which other positions we are searching players, and possibly can reveal some new signings already!

And so there we are, sadly missing out on the Play-Offs, but a great first season at the club nevertheless. With the new signings, it's time to push on I think!
Plenty of transition is due to take place, it's fairly normal at this standard though. The past season can be viewed as something which has set the framework for future success. I think this season could be a prosperous season for Luke and his team.

#012 - Henderson slightly takes control over his squad

19/07/2020 -- Last season Henderson had pretty much to work with the guys who are already at the club, but from now on he can steadily take the lead for assembling his own team. Although every decision is being made in close consultation with the scouting staff. Despite the financial situation of the club is a bit worrying at the moment, the board has raised the wage budget with almost £1,700 to a total amount of £3,800. If we switch over all of the wage money to our transfer budget we can spend almost £80,000 for new players! But that is definitely not going to be happen. If we don’t reach into the play-offs or turned down early again in the cup tournaments this season, then the club will be run into big financial troubles. I think the current level of the squad is already quite decent, so probably two or three good signings beside of what we already have will be enough to compete for at least a play-off ticket.

Despite having some good defenders for the starting eleven, we really need more depth into our last line because of some oldies are retired or have left the club. We are proud to announce that we have found two new players, from which one of them is a really good upgrade. The scouting staff found Jason Brown already before the end of last season and Championship side Peterhead didn’t offer him a new contract. We were sitting front row attracting him to join Spartans, which he agreed with. The second signing is called Greg Pascazio. A very decent back-up player who can also play as a full-back, to compete with Morrison if he fails.

Two other positions that might need a quality injection is our central defence midfielder and a new left-winger. Joe Tait performed not that great last season, so we definitely searching for a better player, if possible capable of playing as a central midfielder or central defender as well. Our left-winger Scott Maxwell achieved quite well on base of his goals, assists and key passes, but definitely not in terms of his average rating (only 6.68). Backup option Bryan Shields is still really young and performs not consistent enough to bring him in. So we definitely searching for a new left-winger as well.

As already said in the last update our midfield is on a quite decent level. Any more players are not that necessary, but if we can find a really good one who can compete with the players we already have, we definitely give it a try! The same fact applies for our striker position. It depends a bit of which tactic we are going to use (4-5-1 or 4-4-2), but we already have two really good strikers and decent back-ups with Nicky Reid and Aaron Murrell. Again, if we spot a good striker by accident, we can decide to sign him if possible.

Pre-season results
So far we played five pre-season matches, most of them we performed quite well I must said. The first game against the amateurs of Blairgowrie was a bit strange. After fifty minutes they were in a 3-0 lead! But a yelling Henderson woke up his players out of their vacation spirit and the players turned over the match dramatically: 3-6. Thereafter we demolished Tayport, before starting three games in a row against far more better opponents. One of them was called Hearts, our affiliated club who is not cooperating with us that good because of none of their players wants to join us on loan. I think they need to push their youngsters and B-players a little bit harder to join Spartans… Anyway, we played a really good game in front of a fully loaded Ainslie Park and took the lead twice. Because of their individual qualities they prevent a big disgrace.

There is one more practicing game left before starting a brand new season. Immediately a very busy month for us, with a handful of games against the clubs that ended above us last season, the clubs which promoted from League Two and the clubs who are relegated out of the Championship last season. So after the first month we probably have a good indication what our chances will be in the league. If we believe the odds from the bookies we are capable of reaching into the play-offs, they predict us on the sixth place after 42 matches.

Note: Thanks Jack and ScottT for your support! Last season was acceptable indeed, but I'm definitely expecting more for the upcoming season. Now I can shape the team far more than last season, in which the pre-season transfer window was turned off which made it even more difficult, and the winter transferwindow usually being less busier in comparison with the summer transferwindow. Firstly beginning with replacing the most worst players in the squad! Coming up next: the 2nd season competition start and more transfers!
Some decent results as you ready yourself for the upcoming season. You've obviously recognised your weaknesses from last season and acted to try to rectify them. Hopefully you see an improvement.
Hopefully the new boys can add some grit to the side.

#013 - Decent start of the new season for Spartans

02/09/2020 -- The transfer window has finally closed, the new is season is already a couple of games underway and Spartans achieved a decent start. The last pre-season match against Camelon ended in a 3-3 draw, after we concede two late goals from horrible mistakes. Not the best way to start the new season with not winning one game from the last four. And this bad run seems to be extended against Wick Academy. Not the best team in the league, but a penalty and a horrendous mistake from our goalkeeper Adam grants Wick the lead (a high ball from distance slipped through his hands with the striker from Wick anticipating quite well and banged in the dropped ball). But after the pause we played far better and golden substitute Murrell, who was brought in a few minutes before, heads in the late 2-3 from a corner kick. To be honest we deserved the win, but we have to play far better if we want to compete for a play-off ticket this season.

The difficult match against relegated side Stenhousemuir ended in a 1-1 draw and thereafter we won 3 out of the next 5 matches, but actually that must have been 5 out of 5. Against Fraserburgh and Rothes we were the better team by far, but the ball simply won’t go in these days. Until the match against Annan almost all the goals we concede are from set-pieces, which is a very good sign in the way of our field play, but at the other hand definitely not how we handled set-pieces from our opponents. It worries me a bit, and maybe I have to make some changes if our training methods are not helping us to prevent these kind of goals.

But, the competition is not waiting for us. We have to play the next match against another tough opponent, Annan Athletic. The second team that relegates from the Championship and again an away match for us. What can I say… It was just one of those days I think. After only ten minutes they scored twice already and before half time Annan scored another one. Although we create some really good chances also, but if we even miss a shot before an empty goal then you probably know enough… The slight glimmer of hope for the second half was turned down just seconds after the whistle when a stupid own goal felt behind Adam: 4-0. Dunn scored a late header, but that one only counts for the statistics. “A result like this can happen, although it’s really frustrating. Every point today would be a bonus for us, but if you concede two goals after only ten minutes then you know it’s gonna be a very long day. We do not have to win the points out of this kind of games, but we definitely need to secure the points in our home games against opponents like Fraserburgh and Rothes, with all due respect. If we don’t, ending within the first sixth might be a difficult job this season.” A critical Henderson said after the game against Annan.

Last transfers
Before the transfer window was closed Spartans has made two more signings. One on loan and the other one was bought from Bonnyrigg Rose. He only cost us £1,000 which is not that much for a decent and experienced central midfielder. Jonny Stewart is joining us for the upcoming season as a backup player. His physicals are pretty good, as well as his mental attributes. Not very technical, but that’s not were we need Stewart for. The last position that needs to be doubled is the left-winger. We had some players for an internship, but none of them seemed good enough. So we shifted our focus for hiring somebody and found Aidan Duffy. The 18-year old winger is on loan from Greenock Morton and can probably become a starting player because Shields and Maxwell are performing not very well at the moment. “Two good players for our squad depth. If they perform well, maybe they can fight themselves into the starting eleven.” Henderson said.

You're in touch with the promotion spots, I have a feeling you'll get it this season!
Excellent form, but hopefully the final few results aren't the start of a downturn in results.

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