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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

#032 - Surely not there yet

06/09/2023 -- The League Cup group stage made at least one thing clear: we are miles away from Premiership level yet. We lost all our four games against Premiership side Dunfermline and Queen of the South, who are just relegated. Our main goal was keeping Peterhead below us, in which we succeed. We really need a big improvement if we want to compete with this kind of clubs , to start with being a full professional side. I am really hoping it will be happening within the next two season, otherwise I don’t think I’m staying any longer at Spartans. We are already struggling with the better clubs in our own league who are professional, so gaining promotion as a semi-professional side straight into the Premiership is nearly impossible. Although we are eliminated in the League Cup we earned some money, mostly because of gate receipts from the Dunfermline away game.

As long as we are not a professional club we have to put out the maximum of our possibilities, which we did pretty much I think. As already said last time our start of the competition was going to be incredibly though, but I’m very pleased with the results. We played four draws in a row and won the last game against Greenock Morton, who reached into the play-offs last season. We scored not many goals, but we concede not many either. So our defensive line is still on a very decent level, just as last season. The most goals we concede so far this season are actually from set-pieces (which we can’t practice, because we don’t have any training days left between all the matches…) so our regular field play is not that bad I suppose.

Last transfers

Our squad is complete. We have one place left for a loanie, but that place is reserved for a really big upgrade for any position. So probably nobody… Since the last update I was still in a search for a full left-back, which we found in Josh Edwards. A very average player with no big weaknesses. Unfortunately we could only get him from Dunfermline if we paid his full wage, which we agreed with reluctantly. He is competing with McHattie for the left-back position.

We also needed an extra centre back. After a very long search we found Andrew McLeod from Kilmarnock. A brave and young talented defender with very decent skills. Probably he will be one of the starting players immediately. We had to pay £13,500 for him, which is our highest spending so far. There were some other guys for less money, but I was a bit doubting and for McLeod I had no doubts at all, so I decide to splash some cash. But a couple of days later our highest transfer bid was already broken again. We payed Raith Rovers £16,500 for 20-year old Dougie Grant. A pretty good central midfielder, which we needed really hard because we only had two and playing with two in our tactic as well. So maybe we were a bit desperate, but I think Grant is really worth the money. He is very technical, mentally almost on a decent Premier league level and physically okay, although maybe he has to pick up a little bit more pace in training. He proofed my trust in him already with scoring at his debut!

There were also some bids for our own players, mostly for Griffiths, which was not a surprise. One of the clubs made a huge bid of £60,000 but we turned it down. It is a huge amount of money for the club to be honest (more than 15 percent of our yearly budget) but I think we have a serious problem if we lost him. None of our strikers is on his level, maybe Connell can reach it, but not on such a short term. Luckily he is not angry about our refusals, in fact he lengthened his contract! Which I’m happy with. If we get promoted by accident then Griffiths is still a good back-up striker for most of the Premiership clubs. The other wanted player is goalkeeper Joe young. But the bids were quite low for his qualities, so we turned them all down. Although he is heavily disappointed right now he is still on a 2-year deal. Underneath I’ve showed the full squad for this season.

Note: Thanks Scott! I'm quite pleased indeed. We made some good last minute transfers as well, which strengthened our squad a bit more. Our start of the season was obvious not the best, but we had some though fixtures. Hopefully we can pick up some form soon and battle for a play-off spot this year! Coming up next: our performances in the Scottish Cup.
Good luck! I agree, some really promising additions and keeping hold of Griffiths is huge.

#033 - Definitely not our cup year

16/11/2023 -- It’s a bit of a weird season so far. Sometimes we are playing good, sometimes we are playing average without losing, sometimes we playing average and losing and rarely we are playing really really awful. That happened in our two cup matches against Lowland League side Campbeltown. I subbed a few players to give them rest, but only three or four. I know the game is punishing you quite often if you are using your complete reserve squad. We played without any inspiration but forced a 1-0 lead just before half time. Campbeltown wasn’t capable for creating anything, but in the last minute they suddenly scored from nowhere… I was really angry because we have to play a replay now, so giving players some rest was just for nothing… In the replay we took the lead again but they forced an equalizer from the only chance they’ve got. So, extra time then. Giving players some rest didn’t sort out very well… Doesn’t it? Nobody scored anymore, so penalties had to make a decision. But our players are really bad in taking penalties… The best one has 8 for it (Griffiths, who has already left the pitch), followed by two players with 6 and the rest with 5 or below. So I guess we are pretty fucked. And I was right, Campbeltown missed the first one, but scored the next four which was enough after we missed twice… A completely undeserved result. We were the better team in both matches, but I felt like we are really FM’ed here. Henderson called it an outrageuos result, keeping both the squad and the club in deep sadness. Via this cup we could earn some extra money to finance our youth academy and youth scouting, but now we have a little problem if we don’t finish within the first six at the end of the season. Oherwise we probably need to turn down our expenses, which I really don’t want to do actually…

But in the league it isn’t much better. We win a couple, we lose a couple, we draw a couple. Against the bottom teams in the league, against the mid-table teams or against the best teams, it doesn’t really matter. We can lose against everyone, we can beat everyone. Although we are currently fifth in the league, which isn’t bad at all, it doesn’t feel very comfortable. Before the start of every game I really don’t know what I can expect from it. It feels like we can loss six matches in a row every moment, so I’m really thinking about changing the tactic. But, as long as we are not losing many games in a row there is not really a cause for changing. I’m heavily struggling with this, currently just not knowing what to do and what is possibly right. For now I’m changing nothing, but that can be different if we lose the next three games from now on…

Note: Yeah, although we are fifth, which is above my expectations, I have some kind of a strange feeling about it. I can’t figure out what is going on currently, which is the most annoying part. Our field play and results are so damn changeable. I can’t make a decision as long as we are in a battle for the play-offs tickets, which should be really great if we make that. Basically I’m just hoping for a good result every match rather than I have some confidence, which is not really a solid base to be honest… We shall see how things sort out the next few weeks and if we have to make radical decisions or not…
Wow, McLaughlin isn't a name I have heard in a while, a player who never really kicked on to his potential at Liverpool and eventually fell down the system. I hope he can put in some big performances for you. So far the consistency hasn't quite been there, but that isn't a real surprise considering the relatively large amount of turnover in the playing staff in the summer. Once they have gelled I expect you to push on again and secure that play off spot.
The league appears to be largely inconsistent as a whole. If you can keep picking up the odd result here and there, you could find yourself in a good position at the end of the season. This has been a promising start, overall.

#034 - Lost 9 points in three matches in additional time...

09/02/2024 -- We are just doomed, aren’t we? I really can’t remember when we had a slight glimmer of luck, but I can remember the moments we are so incredibly unlucky in every detail. In the last update I was already mentioning about changing our tactics, and that has become reality now. After the horrendous away game against Greenock Morton (0-4) I made the decision which I probably had to make a few months earlier before, but the results weren’t bad enough. Until now. In the two games before Greenock Morton it al seems okay until the 90th minute, but in both matches against Queens Park and Abroath they managed to score two goals in additional time. I just couldn’t believe it, but is was for real, surely. And when you see how we got those goals against… Two missiles from distance, a very doubtful given penalty and a free kick from long range perfectly fitting in the corner of the goal… As I said, it is just not given to us. I didn’t changed our tactic against Greenock already, because of we are probably going to lose anyway against them. So I waited until we had a few fixtures in a row against a couple of teams in the bottom half of the league, which was started with the game against Annan Athletic.

So, that is how we are going to play till the end of the season. It couldn’t more defensive, so I decide to create an attacking formation. I switched a few players who are performing quite bad and give it a try. And it sort out really good I would say. We outplayed Annan Athletic and managed to win the game with 4-0, although they are probably the most worse team in the league so we don’t have to cheer to early. But, a win is a win and at the end very positive for our declined team morale. The next one was against Edinburh City. We lost the home match against them in the first half of the season dramatically after a comfortable 3-0 lead so it’s time to set things right. We did so, taking a 2-0 lead after sixty minutes. Ten minutes before time they scored the 2-1, but still nothing to worrying about. But I think you’ll guess what was happening. Again we concede two goals in the additional time, left behind with nil points. Henderson explodes from anger. For the third time in a month we screwed a lead in the extra time. If we don’t, we had 9 points more right now, which made a huge different for the league table. Then we were still battling for a play-off spot, which seems al over now given the gap of 8 points with Falkirk.

A heavily disappointed Henderson is restraining himself to answer the press: “It’s just shocking. I’m shocked, the fans are shocked. The players should be shocked. This may not happen, but it’s happening now for the third time in such a short period. It is unacceptable. It’s not a big issue for losing a game, but the way we are losing matches currently is just devastating. Everything we fight for so far is thrown away. The only thing were I can hope for is that we are practicing this new tactic till the end of the season so we are ready for next season. Only a miracle can help us into the play-offs this season, which is probably not going to happen.”

We didn’t do anything in the winter transfer-window. Not because of we don’t want it, but because we are not capable to do so. We are reaching to a point that we can’t attract better players then we already have right now. Mainly because we are still a semi-professional side and all the negative circumstances because of that. All the other clubs within the current top-10 in the league are professional organized, so in that way we are performing not that bad actually. But we can’t be satisfied with that fact only. We should be thinking about growing further, if we don’t we are never ever making it into the Premier League. Maybe we can reach into the play-offs by accident sometimes, but if so that performance will be already above the status of the club. What I would say is this: I made myself a promise. If we are missing the play-offs this season, which is obvious the case, then I will give it one last try next season. If we don’t reach into the play-off at the end of next season or the club is still not upgraded into a full professional side then I’m going to leave Spartans for sure. I can’t sit down and wait, if the club want something and show their faith in me, than they know what they have to do.

There a thirteen matches left this season. If for some reason we are fighting back with winning a lot of games from now on then I will come back to you just before the end of the season. Otherwise I will complete this season immediately and looking ahead for the next one!
Tough luck. Hopefully the season can end on a high-note.
Really gutting to see losses like that. Makes you wonder what sort of opportunity you'd have towards the Play-Offs if you would have held on at the end. The Play-Offs now look a bit of a stretch with 13 games remaining and the current top six in relatively decent form.

#035 - Luckily this season has come to an end

20/05/2024 -- Damn, that was though. But luckily it’s all over now. Although we did play a couple of good matches with our new tactic, we played at least as many horrible games with conceding a lot of goals. I think this tactic might be working, but it needs more balance. I will work on that in the upcoming pre-season phase. We finished 9th in the league, which is still not bad, but I think we could have done better if our second half of the season went not horribly wrong at some point. Although play-offs are still far ahead of us with all that full professional sides in the league. But I’m not complaining about that anymore, the board knows what I’m going to do if we don’t improve next season. Underneath I just show you the results from the last thirteen league matches and the final table. To be honest I was very glad when the last match finally was over. I wasn’t motivated anymore and I didn’t care if we loss or win a game, I was purely focussed on our new tactic and which players I want to keep for next season. So, summarized a very, very bad season, especially when you take in mind our terrific performances in the cup tournaments as well… I’ve shown my own profile as well, I’m pretty developed since the start of the game!

We directly go further with the performances from our players and which one of them we probably seeing back next season. Despite Young concede a lot of goals in the second half of the season I can’t blame him too much to be honest. He didn’t make any huge mistakes, so he will definitely our starting goalkeeper next year as well. I’m not even searching for a better one, I’m pretty sure there isn’t. Stewart will be our back-up goalkeeper as well for the third season in succession.

Our defensive line is going to be changed dramatically. Newbie Ryan McLaughlin, the best paid player in the squad, was probably the most worse signing I made so far. I believed he was a huge upgrade, but I can’t even remember he played well for only one single match. Luckily he was on a one-year deal, so we can rid of him immediately. Because of his bad performance I used Mark Finlayson more than I actually wanted as a right full-back, but at least it made clear he isn’t good enough either. Last season I was doubting about him already, but now he will definitely leaving us as well. Centre back Luc Bollan was used as a back-up player and his expiring contract will not be lengthened either. Loanie Craig Davidson is returning to Dundee, as Josh Edwards is returning to Dunfermline. Both guys did their job, nothing more nothing less. All the other defenders are staying, but for all of them it’s very insecure if they will taking part of the starting eleven for next season because I’m intended to renew the whole defensive line. Only McHattie will probably good enough to become a starting player again.

In the midfield I’m very pleased with the performances of Ashmore again and our new rising star Dougie Grant. We paid £16,500 for him last season but he is worth any penny of it. Ritchie didn’t played very much and when he played he was pretty shit so he will leave us for sure. Pignatiello is not good enough for this level of football and will leave the club as well. Right winger Alberto Vezza played only three matches (pretty bad as well) so his expiring contract is also not going to be extended. Steven Muir was on loan and will return to Dundee United. He did well, but unfortunately we can’t pay him so we probably don’t see him back next season. Brogan, Duff and Butterworth performed okay, so we definitely keep them at Ainslie Park.

For the first time I’m quite pleased with our back-up striker. After we switched to a system with two strikers Connell proved himself as a decent finisher, so we give him another year when we go further with our 4-4-2 system, so he and Griffiths can form a deadly couple! Griffiths is still a state of the art player for us and he really surprised me over and over again. He became the league’s top goalscorer for the second time in a row. It seems he is even better at this level of football then he was in League One before. Probably because he’s getting more experienced year after year, but you almost forget he is still only twenty-one years old and with us from the beginning (Max Ashmore is the only other player who was already here before I joined the club)! I really love Griffiths to be honest. If we ever get promoted into the Premiership we definitely keeping him with us for sure. He really deserved it. It’s actually quite amazingly that no other club is interested in him so far. Our third striker is going to leave us. Reilly is definitely not good enough for this level of football.

Mainly because of our terrible run in both the cup tournaments our financial balance last season wasn’t great. We made a loss of £155,000 which we can’t afford for another season. I made the decision not using reserve players anymore for the cup tournaments, instead I will use some reserve players in the competition match before. We really need the money from the cup tournaments to be honest, so I have to optimize the circumstances for these matches as good as possible. Yeah, sometimes I’m learning as well ha-ha! The other major change will be our size of the squad. Last season we had way to many players on our pay-roll (both talents and first team players) so I’m reducing the first squad a bit and get rid of a whole bunch of youth players who aren’t good enough, and there are a lot of them to be honest!

For the fifth season in a row the board slightly raised our wage budget to almost £9,000 a week, but I’m trying to lower it down in comparison with last season. The transfer budget isn’t very interested, I’m not paying huge amounts of money for a new player, just because we can’t afford them. We are going ahead with 13 players left, so we need at least 7 new players. Definitely a couple of strong defenders, a new right winger, two central midfielders and a back-up striker. As I already mentioned in the update before, it will be very hard to attract players who seems a huge step forward in terms of quality. We are reaching our limits, so the only thing I can do is sign the best players for each position possible (even doubled for every position if needed), getting 20 players who are all more or less the same on quality. Then we need an extremely overperforming season to beat at least four teams who are fully professional - or a couple of this team’s needs a huge fall down - for making a chance to qualify ourselves for the play-offs. Finishing within the first two is definitely not realistic as long as we are a semi-professional side, or we need a huge miracle…
That second season curse seems to have come around to haunt you, and with the tactic change not working, it looks likely that you'll be missing out on the playoffs. Hopefully something can change to get you back in with a chance in the upcoming games.
McLaughlin joined the club with a lot of expectation and just hasn't delivered at all. A massive shame, really. You have a tough challenge given the reputation you have in comparison to other sides.

#036 - Is this what you call overperforming?

14/09/2024 --
I totally forgot making some screenshots after our pre-season matches or after just a couple official matches, so this will be a bigger update then you might be used to. First I’m started with introducing our new signings for the upcoming season, immediately followed by our performances so far this sixth season.

Defenders. We get rid of a couple of them last season, so we definitely need some fresh blood here! Starting with our new right full-backs. The first one is 35-year old Matty Blair. After Ryan McLaughlin heavily disappointed me last season Blair is a new guy who is also quite aged. But he is far better. He has some really good mental skills, good crossing (which I specifically searched for because I want to play with attacking fullbacks) and quite decent physical skills as well for a 35-year old guy who is at the end of his career. He signed for one season. But he is probably just a back-up player. Our starting right-back will be Englishman Sean Rushe. A player I wanted really much after Arsenal send him away. This youth talent offered himself and I immediately gave him a contract. He is really good for the role we want to use him in and with only 18-years old having some great potential left.

That position has filled in way better than I was expecting. Next: new centre backs. We offered Duncan Johnstone a contract after he left the Aberdeen youth academy. A very decent centre back without big weaknesses. Still 21-years old he can develop himself a bit more, which seems needed for Premiership level, but for Championship football he’s a good player already. The second new centre back is called Josh Kerr. I wanted him really much, so I decide to spend some cash for this guy. He has not the minimum length I prefer for a centre back (1.85 m) but his skills are really good. I’m quite pleased we could attract him, although we had to pay him the maximum amount of wage we could offer. But I’m pretty sure he will be worth it. I tried to buy or hire a new left-back as well, but I couldn’t find a real upgrade in comparison with McHattie, so I could only hope McHattie is not getting injured this season otherwise we have a serious problem.

We were close to sign a new central midfielder, but at the end he chose for a Premiership club. Which I can’t argue, although I think he is not going to play that much. But, it’s his choice. We shifted our search to another player, but we didn’t find a good one. So we went ourselves into the loan market. That paid off. We found an absolute amazingly technical central midfielder who can compete with Grant and Ashmore for sure. 23-year old Kerr McInroy is joining us on loan from Kilmarnock for the rest of the season. Our new right-winger is also a guy on loan. Steven Warnock is going to compete with Zac Butterworth, but probably it isn’t a battle at all between them because Warnock seems a lot better. Mentally not great, but as long as he can run down the right edge of the field for ninety minutes or more - which he can apparently when you take a look at his physicals - I’m satisfied already.

We also hired a back-up striker. The third player on loan already, the maximum number allowed in this division is four. Philip Campbell is a different sort of striker in comparison with Griffiths and Connell. He has some good dribbling, decent mental skills and average pace. We can use him when there is some narrow space in the opponents defensive line because he is quite handy. I’m not really convinced in this guy, but it was the best we could get.

All seems okay so far with a more or less complete squad for the new season, until the very last hour of the transfer window. Our chairman thought he could take transfer decisions on his own. The stupid dumbass sold the only youth academy talent we had in years for £42,000. Decent money, but apparently he didn’t realise that there was no time left searching for any replacement what so ever. I was really mad because Danny Smith seemed a promising talent. But we need at least four central midfielders so there was only one chance left. The loan market, getting our fourth and last possible hired player. We found Max Anderson already before, but we chose McInroy. Now we needed Anderson from Dundee as well, so he is joining us for the rest of the season.

Are these new guys bringing us any further?
At least it seems like that so far! I’m pretty pleased with the transfers, although the huge amount of matches we have to play in the first few months is already a bit of struggle because we have a squad of only twenty players with a few of them pretty tired already. But we were able to manage some rotation without losing form. We started with the League Cup group stage again just as last year. The draw was better and we managed to win both games against East fife, who are in our league but a full professional side; played a draw against Premier League side Livingston and a draw against Gretna, who are in the Championship as well. That means eight points already after four matches which for we qualified ourselves into the next round! An unexpected result to be honest and a good reward in terms of prize money which we lacked so much last year. The last two matches we were able to play with most of our reserve players, so we could start with a more or less fresh team for the league matches.

And that paid off. We didn’t lose a game in the first nine despite we faced a couple of really though opponents already. Everyone performs quite good, but one man in particular. No, he is not called Bryan Griffiths (although he is on fire again) but the other man who is joining us from the beginning, Max Ashmore. If you take a look at his attributes it isn’t even that impressive but he is just outstanding in his role. Last season he provided 148(!) key passes in total and now he has already 52 of them. He is creating so many chances, being very important for us. Beside of that our more balanced 4-4-2 tactic seems quite good so far.

Between our league matches we played our second round League Cup match against Ayr United at home. Not the most worse draw possible, but we didn’t helped ourselves after we concede two goals already after three minutes… We weren’t able to turn the match in our favour, so we did lose unfortunately. But I was already pleased getting into this round. So, for gaining some more extra money we really need to perform in the Scotch Cup this year, which we played against Hearts in the second round. Yeah why not… Of all fucking 127 possibilities we are facing our affiliated club again… And at home as well, so probably we are earning no extra money at all…

Terrific start to the season!
A much better start to the season this year. That extra bit of competition prize money will come in handy and despite losing a potentially top talent, so will the money from selling Danny Smith. Good to see you have also been able to get a really good Right back in as well which is something you had struggled to do the last few years.

#037 - Tough period but still battling

16/11/2024 -- After a marvellous start of the season we currently are struggling a bit. The huge amount of games in a short period, with a lot of them against the better teams in the league and only two days left for training in roughly eight week time has taken its toll. It’s just to much for a tiny semi-professional club like us, but the fact we are still third in the league with an eight points gap in front of position seven, is a really good performance so far I think. So I’m definitely not complaining, but I’m just a bit disappointed that I slightly have the feeling we are a bit restricted to fully evolve the potential of this club.

The only match which made me really upset was the away game against East Stirlingshire. We took a comfortable 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 45 minutes, but in the second half it went horribly wrong suddenly. First they scored from a lose ball after a unlucky tackle, banged in a free kick from a huge range and the most worst defender I’ve ever seen in the game (3 heading, 6 jumping reach, and just 1.81 m tall) headed in a corner kick… Of course all these players scored their first goal of the season. Not a big surprise at all, isn’t it? We definitely need to win this kind of games, but in a season as a whole you always play a couple of games you loss which you actually had to win. The big trick is to reduce the amount of such matches to a minimum. Hopefully this was the only one for us…

It concerns me a little bit that this season looks pretty much the same as the one before until now. Having a really good start, a somewhat doubtful period till the winter transfer-window and in the second half of the season everything what possibly can go wrong is going wrong… Although we have a bit more points at this point of the competition in comparison with last season. The big difference is that I still felt comfortable with our current tactic and our field play seems pretty good most of the time. So hopefully this season isn’t a copy of last season, but we definitely need to pick up a good run of form from now on when we played a bunch of games against the lower teams in the league, starting with the game against promoted side Cowdenbeath.

If there is a golden opportunity ever then it will be now
A really bizarre situation unfolded in the days before our cup match against Hearts. It’s a big mess currently at Tynecastle Stadium. They didn’t win any competition game so far resulting in a 19th position in the league, went eliminated in the third qualifying round of the Europe Conference League already and also lost in the second round of the League Cup (the round in which they entered the cup tournament). So it was not a real surprise they kicked out the manager. But the day before our match against them their board asked me for a job interview. A huge surprise to be honest. I’ve had some offers earlier before over the last few years, but not from one of the Scottish top 5 clubs yet. So I decided to accept the interview, just to hear the possibilities, but I’m pretty sure I will not leaving Spartans before the end of this season. It was a good interview, but at the end (after the match against them) they chose for another manager. Fair enough, my time will come someday (I hope!).

But this whole situation created a somewhat strange atmosphere for me. As already said Hearts is heavily struggling so if we want to beat a Premiership club for the very first time then it can be happening today. But with their interim manager at the wheel they played suddenly from nowhere a brilliant match. Of course they did… Imagine we could provide a big surprise. How dare you… We were completely outplayed, conceding four goals but it could be doubled easily if they banged in all their chances… We probably played our worst match this season beside the second half against East Stirlingshire, granting Hearts their first win since a very long time… “Maybe we were thinking too much about profiting from there bad run of form this season. We totally forgot to play our own match and went completely overrun. Of course it was a really bad draw, but to be honest we don’t deserve to win today against any other opponent.” Henderson said afterwards. So that’s already it for this seasons cup tournaments… No extra prize money, no chance for facing a big team away and gaining some huge gate receipts and no sportively success either. I had some other visions about this seasons Cup tournaments, but it’s not given to us apparently… The only positive thing is that we can fully concentrate ourselves for the league right now, which I definitely want to end with achieving a play-off ticket.

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