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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
Promotion is a definite possibility! It would be fantastic if you could end the season with two pieces of silverware. ;)

#022 - Spartans taking the lead!

04/02/2022 -- No transfers for us this mid-season window, but that’s not necessary either, because we are performing really good at the moment! From the last 9 competition games we only lost once, away against East Stirlingshire: 0-1. From the other eight matches we gained twenty points, which brought us on top of the league. There is even a little gap with the number three of four points and we are already eleven points away from place 7. Mainly because we won the last two away games, from which the one against East Kilbride was a very important one. Our defence is performing brilliant currently (still playing with 5 at the back), which means we need to score most of the time just one goal to win. Although we played not that good against East Kilbride, Brett proved his importance again with a solid penalty in the bottom corner.

Henderson is delighted with the current form of his squad: “The squad performs really good at the moment. Not only the starting eleven, but just everyone. I can replace anybody without any doubt which make things easy to manage for me currently. But we have to realize nothing is secured. We need to stay focussed every match and every training. Only then we can kept our competitors behind.” The next update is after playing round 38, where after the final phase of the season is starting to begin! Can we realise promotion directly, or is our form suddenly dropping dramatically and do we have to play that lottery called play-offs, or even worser, finishing outside the top 6… I just don’t want to think about that now actually. Well, we shall see! Stay tuned.

The consistency you've lacked the past two seasons seems to have finally come together this year. I'm a firm believer that this is the year you win promotion. Hopefully I haven't jinxed you.

#023 - Play-offs, promotion or champion!?

05/04/2022 -- After two seasons with Spartans finishing eight in the league and so missing the play-offs, everything has changed now. With only four games in hand the club from Edinburg is still in the lead and after they secure a play-off spot, there will be even more to play for. The gap with number three East Kilbride is seven points, which means that Spartans has a really good chance finishing within the top two and so gaining direct promotion into the Scottish Championship! But why would you be satisfied with that if you can become the Champion!

The last nine matches our results were quite average. But still good enough to keep the lead. The away game against Cowdenbeath was quite remarkable. After 85 minutes the home team still had a 1-0 lead, but only ten minutes later the scoreboard showed a 1-3. What the fuck just happened, the players and supporters from Cowdenbeath must have wondered. Well, guys called Griffiths (86), Cameron (90+3) and Swanson (90+7) changed the match dramatically, delivering three very important points! But the following competition match against Gretna wasn’t the best result. We played without any creativity and many of our players looked a bit weary, so the 0-1 loss was not a very surprisingly outcome. Already the fourth home game we lost this season so far, way too many I would say…

In between this games we played our semi-final in the Challenge Cup, facing Stirling Albion, our competitor for winning League One. But the match didn’t come at the best moment for us. We had to deal with some injuries, suspensions, a lot of tired players and above of that Stirling Albion having the benefit of their competition game was postponed due to heavy weather. So we had to play with five or six reserves and that was visible. We couldn’t find our automatisms and when youngster Kevin Wright was send-off after only 25 minutes it was clear that it would be hard for us to win the game, or play at least a draw to force a replay. At the end Stirling took advantage of the man more situation and simply pulled the lead over the final whistle. “Although not the best circumstances, I’m a bit sad. Maybe this was the very last possibility for winning this Cup. Now we definitely need to win the competition, it would feel quite unpleasant if Stirling is beating us twice…” Henderson said afterwards.

What else is going on?
Assembling our squad for next season of course! The chances for reaching into the Championship next season are growing slightly week by week, so we might need a handful of new players who are capable of playing on a higher level. That means bigger wages as well, but if we really want some players who are running out of their contract we need to handle soon. But, every signing we do right now is a huge risk as well. What if our current form suddenly drops, with as a result missing direct promotion or losing in the play-offs? That’s a very difficult consideration. But, our financial situation is quite good so we took the little gamble. We have signed Kieran Duff for next season. This 18-year old winger played already a bunch of games in the Championship for Albion Rovers. Not always that good, but he is still young and our scouts do believe he has some great potential. He is already better than Shields, so this will be our first upgrade for next season.

Only four games left to play (although, it should be like that!). There will be a very good change that we are finishing within the first two, so beside of our final run of the season, I will probably do a season overview in the next update as well. Including this seasons squad statistics, which players will stay or going to leave us, and probably some other season overview stuff.
Almost over the line now. Hopefully you can finish the job! The Challenge Cup loss was a shame, but you can extract revenge by holding onto top spot ;)

#024 - Spartans celebrates Championship, Championship here we come!

29/05/2022 --
We reached our goal! Henderson, together with his squad and staff realized a huge step forward in the clubs history. After a very exciting final end of the season, in the final game of the season, in our own stadium, Spartans celebrates the most important trophy ever, but maybe even more important, forcing promotion into the second tier of Scottish football! And exciting it was, for sure. The end of a long season harms the squad more and more, some players are literally walking on their last legs… The first of four games we had to play was against Fraserburgh. We had some bad memories against them, and it looked like history was repeating itself. After a terrible first half it seemed Fraserburgh takes a 2-0 lead into the dressing room, but a late connection goal from Griffiths made the score looks a lot less bad. The doors on Bellslea Park were heavily shaking because of a yelling Henderson, but none of the players seemed impressed. Early in the second half Fraserburgh scored another goal: 3-1. The match seemed already lost, but Griffiths again forced his second goal and a slight glimmer of hope was taking part of Spartans. That paid off. Just before the additional time starts central defender Jordan Armstrong scored a late equalizer. Maybe not deserved, but a very important point. “Six! We concede six goals from the bottom club in the league over two matches. It’s a big disgrace.” A mad Henderson said.

The next game against Buckie Thistle wasn’t that great either. The visitors are taking the lead at the end of the first 45 minutes and again Henderson did make himself loud and clear in front of his players. This time it sorts out. After only 5 minutes in the second half Spartans takes the lead and holds stand until the final whistle. Next: Stirling Albion away. Our next opponent in the second last game of the season. Our direct competitor who are 2 points behind of us. A really important game. The outcome of this match is probably decisive. If we don’t lose it will be in our own hands for the final game, but if we lose we probably lose the league as well. Our second defeat against them after our Cup loss… The idea only makes us sick! So a fully prepared squad will be motivated to the bone for not losing this match. In front of a big crowd unfolds a very exciting game, but it was Stirling taking the lead after a terrible pass on the midfield. Before half time Stirling was rewarded a penalty after a foul from Miller and all seemed over. But our hero Joe Young stopped the penalty, keeping us in the game!

Again we were sitting behind after the first half, so Henderson decide to bring in an extra striker and switching to 4-4-2. That was a good decision. Spartans slightly takes control over the game and twenty minutes before the end of the game Vezza scored the equalizer after a brilliant pass from Griffiths. Immediately Stirling was playing far more aggressive and attacking, pushing us back. They created two really good chances, but again it was our Englishman under the crossbar who saved our asses. So the match ended in a 1-1 draw, maybe Stirling deserved a little bit more to be honest, but we don’t give a fuck!

So we only need to win the final game against Civil Service Strollers, number eighteen in the league, to secure our league winning. Easy right? Not really, actually. It looks like our spirit and teamwork isn’t as good and smooth as it was months ago, but purely on willpower we forced two goals in the second half after we fell behind again. The late winning goal was scored by Declan Hannah, our young striker who only played his second match after his debut two games earlier against Buckie Thistle. A boy’s dream for him to force the first League One Championship in the history of Spartans and to compete for the very first time on the second highest tier of football in Scotland.

Squad overview
We’ve done it, reaching into the Scottish Championship next season. But probably that’s not the best news in the world for everyone in our current squad. I will walk through our current squad and mentioned the guys who are leaving us or probably being replaced. First our goalkeeper. Joe Young was the best wat we could find last season, but he proofed himself every single minute. Only 19-year old yet he still can be developing himself even more, so he will definitely staying with us next season. Although there is some cautious interest from other clubs as well. Adam is leaving us (he was already in the B-squad), so we are searching for a decent back-up goalkeeper who is low on wages. Maybe one of our academy talents will be promoted into the first squad if we can’t find anyone.

Our defence line then. Our 5-men defensive tactic really worked out. We conceded only 32 goals in the league (from which 6 against Fraserbrugh… Had to say that, ha-ha). But are these guys good enough for the Championship. I have my doubts. But for sure I’m not replacing everybody, so a few of them will definitely stay with us. First of them is Jordan Armstrong. We signed him last year and he proofed himself as the best central defender. Left fullback Daniel Church will also be here, but we are searching for a competitor for him because he didn’t convinced me that much so far. Than we have Mark Finlayson and Jason Brown. Two decent central midfielders, but only one of them will stay. Both of them are running out of their contract, both of them achieved more or less the same last season. It’s a very hard choice, but I’ve chosen for Finlayson to stay. Mainly because he can play as a right back as well and his overall statistics are slightly better than Brown. Sutherland is our youngster who is probably going away on loan for next season and the three guys we loaned in are returning to their own clubs.

The most difficult choice is our right-back position. Dean Brett. A very mysterious guy. Only one star rating judged by our scouts, but he performed really well. He is a good free kick taker and a good penalty taker as well, that’s why he scored 9(!) goals. But defensively he is decent as well. This is what I have done: We offered him a new contract (his wage is not that much, so it wasn’t a hard choice) and are going to search for a better option. If we can’t find one, Brett will probably our starting fullback for the next season as well.

Our midfielders performed well. Ashmore is still the best, so he will definitely stay. I was expecting a little bit more from Ritchie, but he was not bad, so we give him another season. 30-year old Brian Cameron proofed himself as a decent back-up, he will be sitting in the waiting room. If we can’t find better central midfielders then we lengthen his contract, otherwise he will leave. The two talents from our own academy, Max Barry and Kevin Wright didn’t proofed themselves last season, so both of them are going to leave us. Right-winger Bill Swanson performed really well, so he is definitely staying with us. Vezza will stay as a back-up. But, we are going to search for an upgrade, so it might be possible that we find another guy and if so we try to loan Vezza because of his contract is not ending this year. Left-winger Bryan Shields played some good matches, but he performs not stable enough. He achieved three matches an E and one match an A. We can’t lean on such kind of players, so we say goodbye to him. Galvin will stay as an backup.

Our striker then… Such a pain in the ass so far to be honest. Last season we had Dunn, who wasn’t good enough, this year we thought we had a better one with Sean Brown. Ehhhmm, not. His start of the season was decent, but in the rest of the season he barely scored a goal despite we gave him a lot of playing time. Brown was on a one-year deal, so we decide to let him go. Talent Ben Reilly acts as our back-up striker who scored 7 goals in 20 matches, not that bad, so he will staying with us. Declan Hannah is another youngster who looks promising, we try to loan him next season, but if we can’t he possible can become our pinch hitter. The only one who is never letting me down is Bryan Griffiths again. He scored not that much this season, but his big favour in comparison with all the other striker is the fact he cared a lot of assists as well. And don’t forget he is still only 18-years old and played already more than 100 matches for us. So there will be only one outcome possible: Griffiths is definitely with us next season.

All the above summarized we keep between 12 to 14 players with us and try to strengthen our squad wherever possible. The board has raised our wage budget to around £5,400, which can be increased with another £1,000 if we lowering down our transfer budget. That’s a decent amount of money to work with, if we can find the right players for the right amount of wage I have some good faith for being not relegated directly next season. We made a profit of around £220,000 over the last season. Mainly because our final position in the table, good prizemoney in the cup tournaments and transfers.

More signings

After we signed left-winger Kieran Duff a month ago already, just before the end of the season when all players run out of their contract we signed two more players. Again a left midfielder, but he is simply to good to ignore. Probably not for the first squad immediately, but this 18-yead old kid is a promising star for the future. Alex Wardrope is joining us after he played the last few seasons for East Stirlingshire, acting in League One as well. The most important figures for the role we want to use him in have almost all double figures and our scouts are believing he has some great potential. The second (actually the third) signing is central midfielder Carlo Pignatiello. I found him myself after spying around in the squads from the few clubs that has been relegated from the Premiership. He played a couple of matches for Airdrieonians, but obvious is not good enough for the Premiership. He was searching for a new adventure, so we picked him up, giving him the chance to proof himself on Championship level. A big upgrade for us, he is probably the best midfielder in comparison with what we already have. Next update will be include our pre-season results and of course more signings (I hope!) to make our squad ready for the next tier!

Thoroughly deserved after so much time plugging away in the division! You've earned it!
Congratulations! Going to be a big year next year to stay up and push on and hopefully we never have to see you in this league again having struggled here for the last few years!
Fantastic news! Get in.

#025 - Are we ready for it?

22/07/2022 -- We definitely need so! But I haven’t the best trust at the moment to be honest. Mainly because we played a couple of horrific pre-season matches against far worser teams than us. At home against Blyth, an English National League side, which does have a far lower reputation than our Scottish Championship, we played quite bad. Maybe because of our new players have to acclimatise a bit, but still we have to win this kind of matches. The next one against the amateurs of Arniston Rangers we repacked ourselves, but it went horribly wrong again against Saint Andrews, another amateur team. They scored 4(!) times, all of them with an amazing strike from distance. The last three practicing games were a lot better, but still our gameplay is quite fragile.

But yeah, the start of the competition is not waiting for us of course. Our start isn’t that easy, but probably none of the matches this season will be easy! We are playing a lot of away games immediately, not ideal for making a flying start, which is good for the team spirit. As you probably have seen in the screen above we are playing another very interesting match. Because of we have finished within the first two in last season League One, we are qualified for the second round of the League Cup. But of all possible 31 opponents, we are facing the best team in Scotland. Away… I just can’t believe it… Why us? At the other end, if the stadium is getting filled with a good amount of spectators we probably receiving a huge sum of money from gate receipts. If so, we don’t have to panic of our financial situation for this season and probably the next season as well.

To realize our goals this season (not getting relegated) we have signed a couple more players to complete our squad. After we signed some players already by the end of last season we managed to fill in all the other ‘gaps’. Our main focus was lying in our defensive line. We lost three guys who were on loan, another one who was believed not good enough and I had some doubts for both our full-backs as well. The first signing is called Jordan McGregor. A 25-year old very decent centre back I would say. We stole him from Stirling Albion, who were also promoted into Championship football. If you can’t join them, beat them! We weakened their squad and also having a good starting player, or at least a luxury back-up player.

Beside of McGregor we signed two more centre backs! The first one is called Luc Bollan. We wanted him already last year on loan, but he didn’t want to join a League One side. Now everything is different, so we tried again. We made a bit of £3,500 for him, which was accepted by Arbroath, playing in the Championship as well. He is a very decent centre back, with really good physical and technical skills and average mental skills. Probably he will be a starting player as well. But that’s still not enough. We are playing with 3 centre backs, so we need at least five players who can play on this position, without having doubt if one of them will be good enough for bringing him in. But we find a fifth one as well. A player which I wanted really, really much and I’m very glad we have him on board. We spotted him already before the end of last season because he was running out of his contract. We made him an offer, but sadly he chose for another club. But that club is called Hearts! A golden opportunity for us to loan him in, which Hearts and this Estonian international agreed with. Let me introduce you Mike Henn, A magnificent 17-year old centre back who is definitely one of our star players for next season!

We also need an extra goalkeeper. Grant Adam has left us, so we need a decent back-up if Young is getting injured or having an extremely drop of form. We found Kevin Stewart. A free agent who has some decent skills for only £40 per week. During the pre-season matches I was not satisfied with the performances from one player in particular. Daniel Church, our left-back, is definitely not achieving what I expect from him. So I instructed my scouts to find another fullback who can give good crossings, have some good pace and also decent defensive attributes as well. I think we succeed greatly. The technical staff found Kevin McHattie. After some very difficult negotiations he accepted our last and highest possible bid. I’m very delighted with him and Church still having as a decent back-up.

The transfer window is not closed yet, but I’m pretty sure our squad is complete. Only if a very big upgrade presents itself we will take it into consideration. Our squad counts 23 players, two more then we usually had in League One, but this league is probably more physical, so I think we definitely need them. Overall the squad depth is better than ever before. The first match is against Arbroath, who are already competing in the Championship for three connecting seasons. It will be a though game, but we shall see how we can perform! The big goal is to end above the red line, which means ending at least on position 19 after 42 matches. From then on we can gradually build further for being a professional club instead of a semi-professional one within the next three seasons.

Note: Thanks Scott, Jack and LFCFan! I'm pretty delighted with it. Another season in League One wouldn't been that bad, but at the end you want to go up and if possible as soon as possible. Maybe we had to qualify ourselves for the play-offs two seasons before already, but I'm not complaining. Now we have a big challenge ahead of us, keeping the club on this level in the pyramid in the first place. I think we did some good work on the transfer market, but we have to see how it sort out!
Some good additions there. Best of luck for the upcoming season! Celtic are a great opponents to make some cash, although there is a strongly likelihood you will get absolutely torn apart. :P

#026 - Decent start so far

09/09/2022 -- There we are. Our very first series of matches at Championship level in clubs history. And it was not bad at all. After we concede two early goals against Arbroath in the opening match of the season we changed our tactic for the second half, which was a really good decision. We slightly took control over the game, creating some good chances and forcing three goals at the end, winning the first game as a result. Newbie Pignatiello scored at his debut and club legend Max Ashmore scoring the winning goal just before the final whistle. “A very welcome result. A lot of difficult games are following the next few weeks, so collecting three points already gives us some tranquillity.” Henderson said afterwards.

And the three following matches were difficult indeed. We lost them all, including the game against Celtic in the 2nd round of the League Cup. They showed up with their strongest squad, so conceding only three goals was not that bad. The huge benefit came the day after, when we received around £350,000 for gate receipts as a result for a half-filled Celtic Park! More than doubling our current amount of money in the bank. We immediately invested one third of it into the clubs facilities and extending our scouting staff.

After the loss against Celtic we played a good game away at Clyde, followed by four games in a row which we not lose, but not win either. All against teams who are competing in the Championship for more than two seasons and with Ross County just relegated from Premiership football. So I’m quite happy with this results actually. The 5-4-1 defensive tactic is fitting us better right now, so I’m using it for the next couple of weeks as well. Off course I’m looking at the other clubs who were promoted from League one as well, because of these two clubs are probably struggling just as we supposed to be. So holding them underneath us is our first main priority. Caledonian Braves is currently performing what you can expect from a promoted side, but Stirling Albion has made a really good start of the season. But he, if we are doing what we have done so far, than I’m pretty convinced we can survive for sure!

A reasonable start to the season.
A tough game against Celtic has seemingly turned you around and since then a nice unbeaten run, albeit only one win but still midtable is much better than a relegation battle.
Keep getting points on the board and progression will come. Doing well so far!

I've thoroughly enjoyed the story to date!

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