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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
It was also going to be tough when you have a squad of just 20, especially when the games started to come quickly. Good to see your work at Spartans isn't going unnoticed though. An interview with an albeit struggling Hearts is a good indication of where you stand in the game at the moment.
I agree with TheLFCFan, the interview with Hearts provides a fantastic indication as to the job you're doing with Spartans. A bit of a rocky patch of form at the moment, but I'm confident you can navigate the team through it.

#038 - Oh dear…

08/02/2025 -- “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.” My own words actually last time… You probably guess what happened; the result are just shit currently. I’m specifically saying the results, because we are playing not really bad or such. Most of the time we are the better team in all the games we have played, but we are conceding goals way to easy, making it very difficult to win games.

After our loss against Ayr United we played nine league matches, but we managed to win only one of them… A terrible run, which cost us our comfortable place in the league for gaining a play-off spot at the end of the season. We are still in a battle for it, but basically all teams do so who are within the first twelve in the league. If we go ahead with our current average for scoring points than we are finishing somewhere midtable for sure. In comparison with last season in which we had a terrible run of form in the second half of the season we are only one point ahead after 29 matches. But I’m still believing in our current tactic. As I said, we are playing not very bad, we just need to score more goals and conceding less. Ha, that sounds logical isn’t it!

We have also passed the winter transfer-window. Again we didn’t attract new players. The reason for it is quite simple, there are just no better players available than we already have. So we are going ahead with our current squad, with hopefully winning more games from now on. In the mean time we lengthened some of our players contracts, but definitely not all of them. Because of our poor training facilities most of the players seemed to getting worse and worse over the time, so we need to renew our squad frequently over the years line by line. The first priority beside of getting fully professional is investing in our training facilities. But yeah, that’s easy said. We are slightly running out of money currently which seems to become a huge problem if we don’t finish within the first six this season. Problems for tomorrow, first we need to improve our results!

Note: Thanks Scott and TheLFCFan for your ongoing support! Appreciate that for sure. Almost every season we have a period which isn't that great, actually quite bad to be honest... I don't want to change my tactic over and over again, but a more solid season for only one time would be very nice! Coming up next: the last phase of the competition. Can we make it into the play-offs?
All about turning draws into wins. Good luck for the remainder of the season!
Despite not losing many, there are way too many draws unfortunately. Hopefully the last run of games you can start taking all three points instead of just the one.

#039 - Big troubles

21/05/2025 -- No summarize this time from our final stretch of the season. Just take a look at the results and our final place at the table and pull your conclusions. I’ve already made mine. Okay, just a short heads-up then. Our doubtful run of form has never ended since the last update and before the last 4 or 5 matches it was already clear that we are going to miss the play-offs again… Precisely at that moment our results suddenly increased. I changed nothing for our tactics, didn’t replace any player other than I had to if someone sustained an injury (which rarely happens because the players are training only for two days and playing one match a week) or a suspension but at some point we were able to win matches again. Honestly, it feels so random what is actually happening. Just like the game is saying: you aren’t allowed to reach into the play-offs… I rather chose for not complaining to much about what is happening in the game, because it has nothing to do with this story basically. But sometimes I can’t ignore it…

So, finishing outside the play-offs again. It really harms me to be honest. It felt so close but at the same time just so far away. The positive thing is that we are the best semi-professional club in Scotland for the third time in successions, but yeah, what does it actually mean? I can’t be really satisfied about it. We definitely need to upgrade into a full professional side immediately, I tell you why in a minute. First we take a look at the squad again. I thought we had a good team at the start of the season, but it seemed like most of the players are downgrading gradually over the year. So it’s start all over again. We have to get rid of the players who are getting worse and worse until the point they are just to worse for the level of football we pursue.

This downgrading thing doesn’t count for our goalkeeper luckily. I’m still very, very glad with Joe Young. He is now with us for four years and I can’t remember he has ever made any mistake. We can’t blame him for the many goals we concede (although this season was slightly better than the one before). He is achieving quite equally throughout the seasons, so he will be with us for the next season as well. Although there is just not a better goalkeeper available as well… The contract for back-up goalkeeper Kevin Stewart is extended with another year. He is now 23-years old and hasn’t played an official game in his career so far. A bit sad to be honest, but it seems he is still okay with his role.

We are saying goodbye to a couple of our defenders. 36-year old Mattie Blair has done his job, but his physicals reaching a point he isn’t usable anymore. We already thought at the start of the season that he would be here for only one year. Centre back Jordan McGregor didn’t play that much this season and is not good enough anymore so he is leaving us as well. Also left fullback Kevin McHattie will leave us and young centre back Sutherland signed a contract for Clyde, which is also a Championship side. We are going ahead with Rushe, McLeod, Johnstone, Kerr and Butterworth. So I think we need at least 3 new guys for next season in our defensive line.

Our midfielders did achieved well. Especially our central midfielders. Max Ashmore was just absolutely astonishing this season. He crowned himself the best player of the league and cared more than 200(!) key passes throughout the season. Just amazing. I can always count on him, although his attributes are not very impressive (said that already before). After a somewhat doubtful first half of the season Dougie Grant performed much better in the second half and together with Ashmore those two guys are definitely staying. Left midfielder Leon Brogan did his job and his contract is also lengthened. Kieran Duff is over the hill and will leaving us, just as our three guys who are on loan. Anderson didn’t played that much, Warnock did okay throughout the season and McInroy only had a good start of the season, but there after he barely played a role of any importance.

Bryan Griffiths seems getting better every season! For the third time in succession he crowned himself as the top goalscorer in the league, this time with a record breaking amount of 31 goals! He is just amazing. Off course his expiring contract will be extended. Connell did his job as a second striker but Philip Campbell wasn’t really an upgrade for us. He will returning to his own club, being Ayr United who are promoted to the Premier League. So, we are going ahead with 13 players next season, meaning that we need at least seven new guys. So far we didn’t sign any player in advance yet who has an expiring contract (for what is a very clear reason, which I will explain below)

The troubles explained
This will be a big update, but there is something that definitely must be said. As the title of this update suggests and what I pronounced already about turning into a full professional club: there is a serious problem right now with Spartans. I didn’t have signed players in advance because there are no players available anymore who seemed an upgrade. Every player we can possible sign is a (huge) downgrade in comparison what we had before over the last seasons. I really don’t know which cause created this issue, but the fact is that I can’t attract any good player right now. Or maybe I do know one reason: last year I get rid of most of our scouts we had (4 out of 6) because they didn’t bring in many good suggestions. Most of the new signed players are found by myself, so I thought I can do the job without the scouts and save some big wage money. But maybe that was a huge mistake. They taking care for having a big pool with players to chose from and without them this pool is much, much smaller. So probably that is the fact that I can’t find any good player anymore at the moment…

But that’s not the only thing. Being a semi-professional side is becoming a huge problem right now. We can’t attract better staff, because of that a lot of players are not interested in joining us and therefore we never have a fair change to reach into the play-offs or even winning it. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. There are 10 professional sides in the league and actually settling us between them over the last three seasons was a really big achievement already. I do realise this now more than I did the last two seasons. Maybe with a lot of luck we could reach into the play-offs at some point but even than you have to win four more matches for getting promoted. All of this did me realise that this is probably it. I bagged the board for upgraded Spartans into a full professional side, but they just said no. I think because we don’t have enough money in the bank. This year our finances ran into debts again, although slightly less than the year before. But, the overall financial situation of the club is still quite healthy.

I can go on for many years and maybe at some point we get promoted, but the fact I can’t attract better players at this moment is frustrating me heavily. I even thought for a second I had to bring in a bunch of talents from our academy. For a club with the status of Spartans we have a really, really good youth academy and youth scouting I would say (which for we spent a lot of money actually) but this so called talents are just shit to be honest. It seems I had even better talents in my very first year at the club without having some good youth recruitment facilities. This annoys me heavily. I asked the board for downgrading our youth budget and youth facilities because it’s delivering us nothing, but they said it is important for the club and rejected my proposal. A day later I asked for developing better training facilities then to avoid the downgrading for many of the first team players, but they said there is no money for it to do so. Of course not… So you could say my relationship with the board is heavily under pressure at the moment. I signed a new one-year deal with the club last week, but - spoken between you and me - if there is any change for getting away here I probably do it without any doubts… To be continued.
It seems you've hit a bit of a roadblock in terms of looking to progress. You continue to perform excellently, but the resources at your disposal just simply don't allow you to push on as you would like and I can truly empathise with that. A very useful update to understand the situation more clearly as a whole.

#040 - The king is dead long live the king!

18/07/2025 -- There are some serious things going on currently. We are two months further now and still I haven’t signed a new player yet. With the first pre-season matches are coming closer we actually should have signed new players already. But as I said in the update before, there are no decent players to find anymore! There are only a few players interested who seemed an huge upgrade immediately instead of an average upgrade. We could sign them quite easily I would say but our restricted wage budget avoided me to do so. Most of this players are asking around £1,200 per week aside of asking for better trainers (which we can’t, so a tiny lie is needed!) but we can only offer around £650. The fact is that we have some space left of around £5,000 in our wage budget, so we could attract at least 4 players with a higher wage. And if we get four of those players the world seems very different for us. We can fill the gaps with youth players then, still having around 17 proper players who are decent enough for the level of football we are pursue. Again the board is not cooperating for bringing this club on a higher level…

But I don’t have to struggle with this anymore. There is some big news to be announced! I am leaving Spartans. Tomorrow. So this is my very last day at the club were it all began for me six years ago. Six decent years I would say. Gaining promotion into the Championship after three and being a stable club at that level of football for three years now. But it will end here. I strongly have the feeling that I’ve get the maximum out of it. There is only more to play for if Spartans turned into a … Yeah you probably know what I would say. They can search for a new manager now, who can find his own new players for next season. He don’t have to deal with the players I did bring in already, which is a benefit for the new manager I think. It would be quite surprising if the new appointed manager is performing any better than I did, although I know the circumstances are tough for him. I definitely will keep in touch with the club, it has a special place in my heart.

This opportunity couldn’t come at a better moment to be honest. I’m very, very glad. I’m not going to reveal my new club yet, but it is an upgrade for sure. A really challenging one as well I would say. I am really looking forward to it. It’s still a good moment to step in, much of the pre-season period is in front of us and the transfer window is still open. Finally, to close the book about Spartans I will show my statistics at the club below. Within a few updates I will do one last update about Spartans to summarize our achievements over the years and highlighted some players.

Intrigued to see who you're off to next!

#041 - Five minute drive

19/07/2025 -- Start your engines. But don’t put the pedal to the metal! It’s only a five minute drive from Ainslie Park to Tynecastle Park. Home ground of Scottish Premier League side Hearts of Midlothian, or simply called Hearts. A dream has come true. Luke Henderson joined the biggest club in Edinburgh (although Hibs fans will argue that for sure!) for the next two seasons. His home town Edinburgh. Could you believe? It just had to be like this. As you probably remember they asked me earlier somewhere in October after they achieved a terrible start of the season. At the end Hearts has chosen John Robertson as their new manager, but he couldn’t reach the demanded goals. The board expected to finish within the first five and so qualifying for the Europe Conference League. A nearly impossible task I would say after the horrible start of the season. So it was not a big surprise Robertson failed and so the board eliminated him. Again they asked me and I learned from the first job interview: just accept all their visions and proposals and don’t argue about anything. You can do it your way once you have the job! Apparently the board has now enough confidence in me to give me the huge task to build a new successful Hearts.

But don’t expect too much of it immediately. Hearts is struggling. Struggling hard I would say. The clubs financial situation is very unsecure currently after they noticed a loss of more than £11,000,000 over the last season which burned down all reserves. The current amount of money in the bank is more than minus £900,000 but luckily there are no outstanding loans. The very first task is to recover the financial situation, but in the meantime the board is expecting results. Again they expecting us to finish within the first five and reaching into one of the European Cup tournaments. It is definitely possible I think, but anything better than their position in the league last season (8th) will be enough for not getting sacked I think.

Henderson looked delighted. When he was presented as the new Spartans manager six years ago only a handful of journalists were present, but now the whole press room at Tynecastle Stadium was filled to the ceiling. “I’m very glad that chairman (or chairwoman actually) Ann Budge has given me the opportunity to take the next step in my career. There is a lot of work to do. I’m honoured that the club has enough faith in me to start this huge task. But we need to be realistic. It’s definitely not for nothing that Hearts hasn’t won a single prize since 2012 (when they won the Scottish Cup) now already fifteen years ago. I know the fans are hungering for a new trophy, but that takes time. First we have to lay down a solid base for the nearby future and from there we can slightly build further. This club needs stability in the first place, a dedicated manager which I am of course and some time for restructuring. Only then we can be successful frequently rather than winning a prize occasionally. This clubs potential is great. The facilities are already here, Edinburgh is a big city containing a lot of money which possibly can be invested into the club when we have a suitable plan for it, we have an enormous fanbase and a fantastic reconstructed stadium. It may take some years, but I definitely believe we can break through Rangers and Celtics ongoing hegemony someday. The club is ready for it, the fans are ready for it, I’m ready for it!”

Off the record Henderson told more about his transfer: “It was not a difficult decision at all. The circumstances for gaining another successful season with Spartans were nearly impossible. I’ve talked a lot with the board over the last weeks, but we just couldn’t agreed about turning Spartans into a full professional side this summer. The club has reached the limits of their possibilities, so Hearts came in at the perfect moment. I think the upcoming season will be a tough one for Spartans. I will be really surprised if they managed to end within the first eight again. Don’t get me wrong, I wish them all the best, but objectively spoken it’s not looking great. There were some other clubs interested as well, including Charlton Athletic from England, but at the last day of the season they get relegated from the Championship into League One. That made everything different for me. League One is still a bigger competition with more money in comparison with the Scottish Championship, but it felt like a little step backwards. Also Dundee United showed some interest, but when Hearts came in their was nothing to doubt for anymore.”

Note: So, a new episode of my career is starting to begin! I didn’t even looked at their squad, their facilities or their financial situation to be honest. I just had to go away from Spartans. That says enough I think. It felt a little bit strange because it looks like a bit weak for leaving at this point when it seemed to be getting really tough, but a managing career isn’t lasted for ages. I’m very selective for choosing clubs, but Hearts is definitely one on my list. Hopefully I can push forward with this club and gaining success at some point! Coming up next: exploring Hearts.
There's definitely a greater scope to succeed with Hearts than with Spartans. Good luck!
A much bigger job was on offer and having turned it down once, and with the situation at Spartans not improving, it is understandable why Henderson has moved on. Looking forward to seeing what he does here at Hearts.

#042 - Is there a brilliant Italian restaurant in Edinburgh? It must be.

19/07/2025 -- Or has the ‘Ndrangheta settled down in the Central Belt of Scotland? Al those Italians over here. Former manager Roberto Di Matteo is already gone for two years now, but his legacy is still present. Four Italian guys are representing Hearts, even five if you count reserve goalkeeper Leonardo Marson as well. But that will end very soon. Because of the beautiful thing called Brexit it’s quite hard to gain a valid work permit for them. Currently three of our Italians are not allowed to play for us until October, when we can ask for a permit again. The same fact counts for another foreign player called Arnel Jakupovic. So basically we can’t use any of these players for the first three months of the upcoming season and after that it’s still highly unsecure if these players are eligible for a work permit by the time. So I think there’s only one solution left: selling them, no matter what we can get out of it…

But there’s more bad news to handle with. I was expecting to find a big mess at this club, but to be honest it’s even worse than that. The work permits are an issue, but the real issue is that there are no back-up players at all for replacing them. Mainly because these four players who are not allowed to play are all strikers or attacking wingers... So beside a couple of reserve players who obvious aren’t good enough we literally haven’t any player who can actually score a goal or taking care for a decent cross… Oh dear, this will be a challenging transfer-window, that’s for sure…

So, first let’s take a look what we do have actually. It seems like we have a couple of above average experienced centre backs, a mixture of good wing-backs, some decent central midfielders and a talented goalkeeper who has earned two caps for Scotland already, but he is a bit tiny (1,80 m) and you probably know I’m not very pleased with that fact… We only have one decent attacking winger, and two players who can play as a striker, but they are definitely not very familiar with this position. On base of my analyse from the current squad there’s only one possible outcome: I can do nothing else more than using a 5-3-2 system with two wingbacks. In that case I don’t have to re-assemble the squad too heavily. I don’t have to make use of attacking wingers or attacking midfielders, the only thing I need are two decent strikers. I’m a genius, isn’t it? Ha-ha!

As I already said in the last update there are some financial problems as well. So the very first thing I have done is a really simple one. I’ve looked in the clubs transfer clauses history (there are around fifty of it I guess) and found two really interesting possibilities to buy off the future selling fee percentages immediately. From one guy we took around £2,500,000 and from the other one just under £1,000,000. It seems that those two guys are never going to delivering us this amount of money in the nearby future, so it’s was a good deal at all, despite the fact we just need the money for bringing in new players.

During the pre-season period it was a mixture of buying and selling players, but to keep it clear I will do the guys we sold until now in this update and all the new players, together with the pre-season results in the next episode. So, here we go: The first one I sold is called Felipe Sáez. He was our only attacking player in the squad who is allowed to play for us. But I don’t make use of an attacking left-winger in the pronounced 5-3-2 tactic, so I definitely need to get rid of him. At the end Aberdeen made a solid £4,200,000 bid for the 22-year old Chilean which I accepted. Not the best deal because he is joining one of our competitors, but it was the best we could get. A couple of days later we sold our first Italian. Gaetano Monachello is over thirty years old already so receiving around £2,000,000 from Braga wasn’t that bad. Only a week later we sold Arnel Jakupovic, one of the guys who isn’t allowed to play for us as well. This Austrian guy joined French Ligue 2 side Ajaccio for £3,400,000.

So far so good, but we still have two players left who are not allowed to play anymore. Selling one of them was a really pain in the ass. 30-year old Mattia Aramu apparently looks a very interested player for many clubs given the fact many of them made a bid for him. But this fool wasn’t very interested in joining one of those clubs. One club made an astonishing bid of £7,200,00 but he just said: “naahh mate, not interested”. I agreed with another club a few days later for a little bit less, but he rejected again… At some point a club was interested for hiring him one year for £2,000,000 and paying his wages, but there after his contract is expiring within one year. I’m never get a good amount of money for him then, so I definitely want to sell him instead of loan him out. But luckily the clubs kept interested in him (surprisingly though, he is not that good and played the last two years the exact amount of zero matches…) and at the end four clubs made a bid of £6,400,00. Still a really good amount of money for him so I hoped he joined one of this clubs now. And yes, he finally did! Hull City offered him a very good contract I would say. Everybody happy, especially me!

The last one who is not allowed to play for us because of work permit reasons is called Luca Vido. To be honest, I think he is a really good player for us and I actually want to keep him here. But who can promise me he is receiving a work permit in about three months? Nobody. He is on a very big wage so with pain in my heart I had to let him go. He returned to his home country to join Livorno, who paid £4,300,000 for him. He is worth much more I would say, but there wasn’t as many interest for him like Aramu. Furthermore we send a couple of players on loan and get rid of one more reserve player who isn’t good enough for the first squad. Below you can see our transfer overview (the new guys are greyed out!) and their profiles in the spoiler for those of you who are interested which guys left us.

All together we earned around £24,000,000 which is much more as I expected, but unfortunately not all of that is added to our transfer budget directly. Because of our financial troubles we are allowed to reinvest roughly the half of it. And that could be even worse if the board rejected my request to raise this reinvestable percentage till 50 percent from the original 10 percent. So, we have a good amount of money now to reinforce the squad. Together with our gap of around £45,000 for wages we should be able to attract some good players. As already mentioned the most urgent needs are at least two strikers. I was already thinking about Griffiths, but it doesn’t felt right to attract him immediately and so weakening Spartans extremely. Although I have some doubts as well if he will be good enough for this level of football. In the next update I will reveal our new signings and of course our pre-season run together with our performances from the first few official matches!
You have your work cut out dealing with all of this, but good luck in investing back into the squad!
A tough situation to come into in regards to the tough financial situation. But you have raised some decent funds in sales, so hopefully you can rebuild this club.

You are reading "The Luke Henderson Story".

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