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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

#027 - No complains at all

26/10/2022 -- Everything is going well currently at Ainslie Park. A satisfied board, satisfied players, satisfied supporters and of course a satisfied manager. After the four draws in a row we lost our home match against Dumbarton. One of the full-professional sides in the league and during the match against them the number three in the ranking, so not a shame at all. Although we played quite good. The following match against Inverness away, also a professional side, we played even better, this time resulting in winning the match. A bit surprisingly, but we definitely take it! There after we faced Albion Rovers, the bottom club in the league. As you probably know we don’t have the best memories for playing against the worst team in the league, but today we completely run over them, resulting in a huge score: 0-5.

The next one we lost against Montrose, a good club in the league, so every point against them is a sort of a bonus. We were on our way to do so, but just before the end of the match they scored the winning goal from a corner kick. A bit disappointingly, but again we played a proper game of football. From the next four matches we scraped six points together, without losing a game. I was hoping for a little bit more because we played three of this matches against teams underneath us in the league, but I’m definitely not complaining at all. Although it might be a bit concerning that we haven’t won a home game from the last six games in our own stadium. Our one and only home victory is still the opening match of the season against Arbroath.

In between we played the second round Scottish Cup match against Stranraer, another team that is struggling in our league. We controlled the game ninety minutes long, taking a clinical 2-0 win back home. In the third round we are facing League One side Buckie Thistle at Ainslie Park. Finally an easier draw then the seasons before! Henderson is quite pleased so far: “I think we achieved a hell of a job so far. I couldn’t wish anything more then we currently do. The tactic is fitting us perfectly, our defensive line looks really solid with all the new guys and of course with Griffiths scoring frequently. It’s amazing how quickly he has adjusted to this level of football. And you should almost forget he is still only 19-years old! If we go ahead like this we can definitely finish somewhere mid-table, which shall be a remarkable performance. But, there are still a lot of matches to be played, so everything can change if we don’t stay focussed.”

Note: Justice, TheLFCFan and Scott thanks for the reactions. You are definitely right TheLFCFan! I was expecting a though battle to avoid relegation, but so far it's going quite well even after this update. Coming up next: Our results until the winter transfer period.
You're certainly doing far better than what was expected. A fantastic month overall.
Next month will be very interesting, facing the two sides directly below you at the moment. You also have a good opportunity for some points against a struggling Stenhousemuir. Good luck!

#028 - The P-word spooks around, whether you want it or not

03/01/2023 -- What can I say? I’m just the Special One, I guess… Ha-ha! It looks like everything is falling in place at the moment. Our undefeated run is still ongoing, now 15 matches long or in time: more than three months without a loss. We are just performing amazingly at the moment. The big clue will probably be our defensive line, we get very few goals against, so we don’t have to score often to win or draw a match. In December we won all four competition games, which delivered Luke Henderson is very first manager of the month award since he started his managing career 3,5 years ago.

Of course we are going to lose someday, but we hope to postpone this day forwards as long as possible! As a result of our good run of form we steadily climbing upwards the ladder, holding position six currently. An absolute marvellous achievement so far. We don’t want to speak about it yet, but we probably will not get away with it as the fans are whispering it already, the magical P-word floats around at Ainslie Park more and more. “We are performing brilliant currently, so it is quite logical that everyone who loves the club is talking about the play-offs. Nothing seems impossible right now, given our performances on the pitch. But I prefer to turn down the expectations a bit. We are already far ahead from our main goal this season, avoiding relegation. Everything better than that will be a huge benefit, but we have to remember everyone that our achievements on the pitch doesn’t match with the current clubs facilities, budgets, staff and the fact that we still are a semi-professional side.” Said a restrained Henderson.

Beside of our result in the league we have also reached the fourth round of the Scottish Cup for the very first time, after being knocked out in the second round and third round twice over the last three years. All what matters is a good draw and this time we didn’t linked to a Premiership side or difficult away game against any team from our league. We played a home game as well, which is always easier of course. Although we played not the best match in comparison with our results over the last few months, we defeated Buckie Thistle with 1-0, with who else than Bryan Griffiths scoring an early goal. And this time our Cup run might be during even longer. In the next round we are facing another League One team, again in our own stadium. Kelty Hearts is visiting us, having a proper chance to reach within the tournaments last sixteen!

As you probably have seen already given the current date, the winter transfer-window is opened yet. So there will be the possibility to strengthen our squad any further, although it seems not that necessary. But he, we try to grab every opportunity bringing the club forward, so if we can we definitely will do! There might be one position in particular that I’m not completely happy with, being our right full-back. Dean Brett has done his job in League One, but unfortunately he is not good enough for Championship football. He is replaced already in favour of Mark Finlayson, but he is also struggling a bit with this level of football. We have some finances left to play with, so if we can find an upgrade we probably give it a try. I’m pretty delighted with the rest of the squad, so I’m expecting no other transfer if nobody is going to leave us this window.
No defeats in three months, that certainly is p*******n form!
That form is incredible.. Jack is right!
No better time to improve than when you are already over performing! Take advantage of this form and we could be seeing that certain P word happening!

#029 - Still in the race after difficult month

02/04/2023 -- After a good win against Clyde and beating Kelty Hearts in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup after penalties (For some reason replays are not played in this round unfortunately) our unbeaten run suddenly came to an end against Ross County. We forced a surprising 2-0 lead after only fifteen minutes, but because of a few mistakes and lucky goal situations we lost the game. Obvious it was a deserved win for Ross County, but it felt like we could done better with at least stealing one point back home. We won the next match against Stranraer, who are somewhere in the bottom half of the league, but there after it went horribly wrong.

First we faced Premier League side Hibernian in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup. A home game again, but their best player is paid three times as many as our complete squad, to give you an idea what the actual difference is between them and our club. The crowd saw an enjoyable match with a lot of goals, excitement till the end, but without a positive result for us. Although we played quite well, we still have a very long way to go before we get anywhere close to the level on which Hibernian performs. After this game we had a couple of difficult matches against the better teams in the league. Take in count that we had some issues with suspensions, injuries, tired players and not having the opportunity to practice in between this matches to learn from our mistakes because of we are just a semi-professional side. All this added together it’s not really surprisingly that we lost a couple of matches. After we lost the home game against bottom of the league side Albion Rovers (of course we lost this one, definitely not a surprise to me…) I thought it was all over for us this season, ending somewhere mid-table. Still a very, very good achievement, but after a brilliant second quarter this season I felt we could have reach something more maybe.

But we forced a turnaround against Montrose. A difficult away game on paper because of they are above us in the league, but we managed to win the game, although Montrose played slightly better to be fair. An important win, it boosts our morale a bit and give us some new energy for the final push of the season. We won the next game against Brora Rangers as well, scraped a sneaky win a couple of miles near our stadium against Edinburgh City and almost won a point against Greenock Morton before they forced a 90th minute goal. They controlled the match entirely after we had an early send-off, created a lot of chances, but the ball just won’t go in. Until the 90th minute though… But luckily it was not the start for a renewed period of losing games. Against Cove Rangers we played not our best football, but the result was the most important thing at this point in the season: 2-1.

Only five games left from now on. We are seventh in the league currently, still having a proper chance to reach into the end of the season play-offs. It will be a stunning achievement if we do, but for sure I’m not very disappointed if we don’t (although that depends a bit how the end of the season is looked like!). It’s already a magnificent season so far. Our three home games left are definitely doable, as is Stenhousemuir away, but probably everything is going to be decided in the very last game of the season, when we played against Airdrieonians, who are still in a battle for finishing second and gaining direct promotion. So, for the fourth year in a row we have an excitement end of the season in front of us!

As you probably expected I haven’t done any winter transfers. I couldn’t find a player who was really an upgrade, so I decided to go further with the guys we already have. I was hoping for some wonderkids from our academy, but it’s not great so far over the last few seasons. There are a couple of good talents though, but just not good enough to put them into the first squad directly. So, we will wait until the end of the season to make a decision which players are staying and which ones are going to leave us. I will pronounce it when the season has come to an end. Which can take a little while longer if we reach into the play-offs, although I’m not really expecting it.

Note: Thanks guys for your support again, but don't celebrate to early! The form was incredible for sure, but not anymore as you have seen. Hopefully we can pick up a bit from it again to reach into the play-offs, that would be great! Although our current field play makes me a bit anxious...
A very tough February after a great Christmas/New Year period. However, March has seen the form turn back around and you are still very much in contention for the playoffs. It'll be a challenging end to the season, but one I think you will do well in!
Echoing the words above. A much-improved March after a tough run of form in February. Well done.

#030 - Position eight loves us

21/05/2023 -- That was it. A really enjoying season with a somewhat doubtful end. Already in the first match of the last five it was quite clear that we probably not going to fight for a play-off spot. We played without any inspiration against Peterhead, and so we loss, despite taking the lead just after halftime. But to be honest that was already against the ratio. Ten minutes later the visitors had balanced the score in their favour: 1-2. Although we did win the next two matches without playing great football, we didn’t came any closer to place six because of all our competitors did win their matches as well, making it almost impossible for us to finish within the first six. We had to win the second last game against Caledonian Braves who are battling against relegation, but we played an awful match again. They deserved the win and so it was all over for us. The last game didn’t even matter anymore, we are finishing eight anyway. And that was obvious visible. Eleven unmotivated players literally walked like warmed corpses over the pitch, creating just nothing. In the meanwhile Airdrieonians had to win to make a chance for finishing second in the league and so directly getting promoted. They did their job, but the liberating 3-1 only fell in the additional time. The only chance we had was a shot from distance, which Ashmore surprisingly lumped in. Unfortunately the season was during just a couple of matches too long for us, but we are definitely not complaining at all. Finishing Eight! Who could even think about it before the season started...

Of course Henderson was delighted as well: “Not the best match for us this season, but overall we should be really satisfied. We played a whole bunch of good games this year, winning a lot and as a result finishing eight is a brilliant performance. We can build on this further into next season, although we definitely can't expect to achieve the same result as we did this season, or even doing better, reaching into the play-offs. It heavily depends on which players we can sign, how our current players are performing in the second season because everybody knows us right now and on top of that, history has learned that - generally spoken - the second season is way more tougher than the first one. But, we shall see how things sort out. First we are going to enjoy our more than deserved holiday period!”

Squad overview
Although we achieved a good result as a team, not every individual is good enough for this level of football. The first player who is going to leave us will be Dean Brett. Already after a couple of matches in the league it was pretty clear he hasn’t the abilities to perform good enough for Championship football. Finlayson replaced him for almost the rest of the season, but he is also not good enough. We keep him as a back-up player, but we definitely need an upgrade for our right full-back position, if possible with some decent attacking skills as well. That will be by far our main target for the upcoming transfer-window.

Our centre backs performed quite stable. Only three teams conceded less goals than us, so that’s a good indication that we have decent players here. Although our goalkeeper developed himself really good as well. Mike Henn is on loan and will return to Hearts of course, but we are trying to loan him for another season, although I think that might be difficult. Left-fullback Daniel Church is also going to leave us. Surprisingly he has a really good report from our scouts (mention his star rating in comparison with the rest of the squad), but I never ever betrayed him for playing just one good match. Luckily he is running out of his contract. Jordan Armstrong is the only centre back who is going to leave us, he is running out of his contract and I have some doubts about him to be honest after he looked like a huge upgrade at the start of the season.

Our midfielders performed decent as well. I was expecting a bit more from Ritchie, but we give him another season to proof himself. Ashmore and Pignatiello will definitely staying with us, only Brian Cameron is going to leave us. Almost 32-years old now he downgrades a bit, so I think the time is right to say goodbye to him. Probably he still can be helpful for a League One side, but not for Championship football anymore. So we need a new player for our midfield as well.

Our wingers performed not that good this season. Only Duff did his job, but all the others guys disappointed me a bit to be honest. Especially Wardrope, from who I had some really good expectations, but he never filled them in. His contract is not expiring, so we have to keep him, but he really needs to impress me soon after the start of next season, otherwise I will place him back into our B-squad or send him on loan if possible. Irishman Cory Galvin is running out of his contract and is going to leave us, and the same will probably happen for right-wingers Bill Swanson and Alberto Vezza. Decent wingers, but just not good enough for this level of football for making a difference. So, after searching for a new right-back, we definitely need an upgrade for our right-winger position as well.

Striker Bryan Griffiths is by far our most reliable player right now. He didn’t missed a single match last season, scoring 24 competition goals, for which he earned the Championship top goalscorers trophy as well. An amazing achievement I would say. Declan Hannah already signed a new contract for another club. Which is good for him because we definitely had not lengthen it. Reilly only scored two goals (both in one match) but he never proofed himself as a reliable back-up for Griffiths. We keep him for another season because his contract is not expiring yet, but he will probably not playing that much anymore next season if we are able to find another striker. In summary we are going ahead with 14 of our current players, which means we need at least seven fresh players. Our youth academy is still not bringing in rough diamonds unfortunately, so I think we have to splash some money around for the first time since Henderson joined the club to assemble a squad for next season. Underneath I’ve showed the last seasons team statistics and my own profile as well.

A tough end to the season, but that can't take away the tremendous job done so far in the Championship. Despite being a nice idea the playoffs were clearly a step to far and if you had managed to win them, the Premiership is almost certainly to big a step right now. It seems like you have a clear idea of where to strengthen this window and hopefully those players can come in and make a real difference.
A magnificent season with all things considered!

#031 - Negotiations, negotiations and more negotiations…

19/07/2023 -- I foresaw a really though summer transfer-window for us already at the end of last season and that actually came through. At this moment it is really hard for us to attract players who wants to join us. We are struggling heavily with not being a full professional side, having a low reputation and some poor training facilities (which I don’t want to upgrade before we turning into a professional club). The players who wants to join us are not really a big upgrade in comparison what we already have and the few players who probably are an upgrade, prefer to stay at their current (Premiership) club. Apparently sitting on the bench for a whole season and playing only two matches as a substitute is more interesting for them than playing 42 matches at Scottish Championship level…

But after some really hard scouting and searching we found a couple of players for at least more squad depth, because of having only 14 players is the most worst idea I believe. Our goalkeepers last season are just fine, so no changes under the crossbar. The biggest problem lies in our fullback positions. McHattie is a decent left-back player, but Finlayson is not good enough for playing 42 matches as a right-back, and beside of this two guys we have literally nothing! We are still in the search for a backup left-back, but we did found a good starting right-back. Via a couple of connections we were linked to free agent Ryan McLaughlin. A Northern Irish international with 5 caps. He has some really average attributes, at least far better than the other players who popped up. Or their physicals were bad, or it was a tactical dumbass or their technical skills were just shit. McLaughlin solved our problem, with Finlayson being a decent back-up.

After Henn returned to Hearts and Armstrong leaving us we need two new centre backs as well. We only found one so far. Craig Davidson is joining us on loan (without paying his wages) for the rest of the season. He is from Premier League side Dundee. Definitely not as good as Henn was, but far better than Armstrong. We are searching for a fifth centre back because we will stay on with our 5-4-1 tactic, which worked out quite good last season.

Our central midfield consists only two players currently (Ritchie and Ashmore) so we are searching for at least one more. We have done some bids, but nothing serious has come out yet. As already said in the last update our wingers didn’t performed very good last season. Actually I want to replace all of them beside Duff, which we managed to do so. On the right hand side we have bought Zac Butterworth from Cowdenbeath. A decent right midfielder with some good pace, good crossing and good passing. Mentally definitely not the best, but he is an upgrade in comparison with Swanson and Vezza. Swanson is send to our B-squad already, it depends a bit if we can attract more players if Vezza is facing the same fate. Beside of Butterworth we are hiring youth international Steven Muir from Dundee United (which is another club than Dundee!). A different type of player than Butterworth, so if one of them fails we can give the other guy a chance. On the left hand side we have signed Leon Brogan. He is replacing Wardrope who has heavily disappointed me. Brogan will be the back-up for Duff.

Up front we still have Griffiths in the house, although some Premier League sides have made a bid for him, but all of them far too low for taking it in consideration anyway. After Griffiths there is just a big gap, although we can bring Reilly back in the squad if needed. So we had to find a decent back-up striker to keep Griffiths focussed. We found free agent Kyle Connell. A decent forward, but of course Griffiths will be our starting player in the first place for sure!

In summary I think we definitely have improved our squad so far, but I’m a little bit disappointed that we weren’t able to attract at least one really good player who sticks out above everyone else. Maybe it can be happening at the last few days of the transfer period if one of the guys from a Premiership side has changed his mind to join us instead of taking place at the bench, but therefore we need to be patience. Because of that I’m definitely not loaning in the maximum of four players already. You never know who suddenly pops-up! Now we are still searching for a centre back, a left full-back and a central midfielder; hopefully I can present them next time.

Our preseason practicing games weren’t that bad. With one draw and four wins against slightly worser teams we could be satisfied, although it doesn’t give any guarantee for a decent start of the first official match. Which is this time not a competition match, but a League Cup group match against Premier League side Dunfermline. Furthermore we are paying against Queen of the South, who are relegated from the Premiership (couldn’t been any worse for us…) and Peterhead, who beats us only two months ago. Not the best draw for sure, but we are not expecting really much of it. We could earn some money, which will be the main thing. Beside the cup matches we have a really though start of the season as well, with last season numbers 4th, 6th and 7th within the first five matches. I really don’t know what I can expect from this season, partly because I feel we overperformed a little bit last season. I think I’m quite satisfied if we finish at the top half of the league again, but I hope we can do a little bit more and fight for a play-off spot for a while.

Note: You're defeinitely right LFCFan! Immediately getting promoted into the Premiership would be a big problem. We are just not ready for it, although it would be nice if we can sniff at the play-offs. In League One we missed the play-offs twice as well... Hopefully our new guys can slightly improve our overall squad quality, I think the though start of the season will be a good indication how this season will develop itself I think.
Your recruitment has been largely decent given the circumstances you've mentioned overall and this window has been no different. I applaud the efforts you make as you're doing a good job with such limited resources.

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