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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
Luke Henderson's avatar Group Luke Henderson
2 yearsEdited

#005 - Club background information

After many years of preparation Spartans finally turned into reality in 1951 after some players from University club Edinburgh couldn’t recognize themselves anymore in the clubs philosophy and established their own. After starting in the sixth and lowest tier in Scottish football the club growth slightly throughout the years, but being a champion was always far ahead. Until the year of 1972. After more than two decades Spartans celebrate their first major trophy by winning the Eastern Conference First Division. Although with the then separated football associations forcing promotion wasn’t possible unfortunately. Spartans repeated their competition winnings eight times more, before a comprehensive restructuring of the Scottish football pyramid was finally accomplished from the 2013/2014 season.

Directly at the start for the first season Spartans were invited to join the newly formed League One, the third tier in Scottish football. It became a huge success immediately for Spartans. They reached into the play-offs in their first season and again four years later. Unfortunately the team wasn’t capable winning the play-offs, but at least it was clear that Spartans can be competitive in the league. Nonetheless the club growth steadily further over the years, invested more money than ever before in their brand new youth academy dated from 2009 and pronounced their wish taking part in the more professional Championship, reaching it in one of the three upcoming seasons, and turning Spartans finally into a full professional club. That will be the main task for the new appointed manager, former Spartans midfielder Luke Henderson.

Spartans are playing their home matches at Ainslie Park, a former leisure park in the outskirts of Edinburgh. At the main side it holds a small modest roofed stand, offering 530 seats. The rest of the pitch is almost completely surrounded with a small sloped hillock, capable of holding place for more than 2,500 standing people. All the other facilities are quite good, developed recently in 2009, together with the youth academy buildings. But the nearby future for Ainslie Park may be insecure. The grounds are owned by the City of Edinburgh Council and are marked as a site for future real estate development.

That’s the main reason why chairman Craig Graham recently has bought a long term first option for another undeveloped terrain. Officially the location is unknown, but some research in Land Registry data makes clear that Graham is intended to relocate Spartans to the former grounds of the Academicals Sports Centre. An absolutely marvellous location just at the edges of the inner city, measured almost 24 acres. It offers a lot of opportunities, but for now Ainslie Park will be good enough for the next few years. “Although we are very ambitious and looking forward for possible interesting locations for our new campus, we have to reach a higher level in the pyramid first before we could even think seriously about relocate Spartans.” Craig Graham said.

Club structure and vision
The first squad of Spartans counts 22 players, most of them from Scotland. Furthermore there is an under eighteen team playing in one of the youth divisions, which is definitely important for the clubs long term youth players development, and several younger youth teams. Spartans is one of the few clubs in League One maintaining a basic youth academy, but lying within the urban area of Edinburgh and the Central Belt their backyard is wide enough searching for talent. Although Spartans is a satellite club of Premier League side Hearts - which give them the opportunity for hiring talents for a reduced amount of money - the club is completely independent.

The financial situation of the club is healthy at the moment. Chairman Craig Graham is a former businessman with a lot of connections, bringing in a certain amount of money every year from the key sponsors. The clubs budget for the next season will be around £170,000 from which £100,000 can be used for the first team squad wages and incoming players. That sounds quite good, but all players have a part-time contract only, which make them very vulnerable for higher teams when they performing above average. That’s a bit of concerning, but this might be ending soon if the club can be turned professional.

The main club vision for the nearby future and long-term expectations are very clear. Investing in the youth academy and make sure players are breaking through into the first squad. But, to make sure players keeping interested choosing for the Spartans academy, the club really needs to turn into a full professional club instead of the semi-professional status it currently has. That’s why the club is making priority reaching into the Championship in one of the next three season, to secure the future for the youth academy in the first place.
Changes that could make Scotland so much more competitive and I look forward to seeing Spartans getting to the highest level and challenging year in year out. I am sure you will be able to get them there soon enough!
Really looking forward to seeing what the Spartans can do this season
The aspirations are clear. Now let's hope Luke can begin to put the groundwork in to achieve them within the time-frame required.
Seems like there is a good structure in place. However, the part-time issue that you raised can be a problem with talented players. Looking forward to the Spartans!
Luke Henderson's avatar Group Luke Henderson
2 yearsEdited

#006 - Introducing our players

05/08/2019 -- Almost six weeks underway now, Luke Henderson is slowly finding his way being a football manager. Already on his fourth working day and only the second day he met the players on the training, Henderson was ‘kidnapped’. That only means one thing, he has to do a long time tradition at Spartans; jump over the 3 meter wide muddy ditch (sometimes filled with dark water) just behind the training field. Not many have reached it, but Henderson surprised his players by making it to the other end. Only just, but he made it. Possibly because of his length. But, at least it was good for the team spirit and his dominance over the group.

Being seriously now. Spartans has completed the preseason period and now I’m going through the results from the friendly matches and presenting the (key) players at the same time. After a full week of training, practicing our tactics and learning the players qualities, the first match was scheduled at Saturday against the amateurs of Rob Roy. That sounds like an isle in a pirates movie but they performed very well and surprisingly defeated us. Nothing to worry about because of Henderson instructed his players to focus on their physicals. The next two games where not that great either, but at least Spartans did not lose. The fourth pre-season game against Tollcross ends in a comfortable 5-1 win, before losing at home against League Two side East Kilbride. One week later Spartans finished their pre-season period with a somewhat doubtful 2-1 victory over the amateurs of border city Coldstream. “Surely not the greatest starting period for the new season but it takes some time to get everyone familiar with the new tactic. The next few weeks I’m expecting more ups and downs as well, but it’s important that we are creating faith in our working methods and keep standing behind our vision.” Henderson said.

Our Squad
As almost every team in the league, we are heavily dependent of the performance from two or three key players. If they are achieving well, then the whole team can possibly follow. In our case right-back John Morrison can make a difference with directly in front of him Leeroy Makovora, a Zimbabwean born winger on loan from Hearts. If these two guys work well together, then our right side of the pitch can be very strong for creating chances. But all eyes are possible focused on Max Ashmore. This only 21-year old central midfielder is a very decent player without obvious weaknesses, and he can play in a role as a box-to-box midfielder. The kind of player Henderson was in his own career, so he can instruct Ashmore where ever he possibly can.

Beside of this key players we have some decent players like Michael Bolochoweckyj, Jack Smith and midfielder Ian McFarland and a couple of promising youngsters, such as left-back Graham Doig, midfielders Joe Tait and Nicky Reid, left-winger Bryan Shields and strikers Bryan Griffiths and Aaron Murrell, who almost seemed ready taking part of the starting eleven. Big weaknesses are probably our goalkeepers Blair Carswell and Christopher Peden. Carswell measures only 1,75 meter and if I hate one thing than it definitely will be a goalkeeper who is tiny… But there is no much choice beside of him, Peden is just shit and not that tall either. So our main target for the nearby future is getting in a decent goalkeeper who actually can touch the crossbar. But that might take some time, I have turned down the pre-season transfer window. One other thing of concern is our squad depth together with a couple of players who become aging. Well, underneath I’ve shown our squad and tactics, let me know what you think about it.

Note: Thanks for your support so far guys! I'm not that sure TheLFCFan. There is a lot of work to do to become a side who can compete with the best teams in the league. And it wil be even more difficult the way I'm playing... Yeah that will be a problem Jack! That's our major priority, become a full-prof side, but I think that's only possible when we are promoted to the Championship and at least compete for three years or so in that league. Coming up next: the start of the competition!
Brilliant start to the story! Interesting to see such a restructure of the football system take place, and it'll be interesting to see how it looks in 5/10/20 years time! You have a decent enough squad to work with but I'd imagine it'll evolve quite a bit under your leadership!
Great update once again. Loving this so far mate!
Such impeccable detail with every update, so much of interest to read each time. Loving this so far, can’t wait for more to indulge in.
Luke Henderson's avatar Group Luke Henderson
2 yearsEdited

#007 - Spartans performed better after difficult start

03/10/2019 -- After six weeks of training, learning tactics and get used to each other the first match of the season is finally there. Henderson and his squad are travelling almost 70 miles down all the way to the English border to face Gretna. Of course the 118 spectators where not treated with some nice football, but after ninety minutes Spartans have won their first match with a very close 2-1 as a result. “Winning the first match is really important. It’s boosting the players morale and creates confidence for the path we want to follow.”

But the promising start of the season turned dramatically. The next three games all gone lost mostly because of some really stupid faults in our defence together with tremendous mistakes from our dwarf. I’m quite sure you know who I mean… The biggest disappointment of this will be our lost against Wick in the Challenge Cup. We could earn some good money when we reached into the next few rounds, but that’s all over now. After the loss against Fraserburgh we stretched our backs and start a really good run of form with no losses in the next eight matches, resulting in climbing to the seventh place in the league and qualifying for the second round of the Scottish Cup. And, most surprisingly though, without any notable mistakes from our goalkeeper! Sadly our streak came abruptly to an end against the club with probably the most weird name all over Scotland, Civil Service Strollers. They defeated us with 1-0, but the only club who deserved to win was Spartans… We created some really good chances, but the ball just won’t go in today.

However I turned down the pre-season transfer window, in the month September the Scottish window for hiring players is still open. That might be our only opportunity for getting in a decent goalkeeper, otherwise we have to wait until January. We are allowed hiring four players, currently having only three. But I changed my mind. We couldn’t find a proper goalkeeper who can replace Carswell and actually he performs quite good the last few weeks. So I decided to bring in a little bit more depth into the squad and hired right-back Aiden Gibb from Celtic. Mostly because of Morrison performs not as good as I was hoping for and the 37-year old Alan Brown lacks some good technical skills for being a decent back-up. Getting Gibb was a bit of a gamble, my scouts didn’t have found the time for creating a full report of him, so I decide to choose him on the basis of his statistics in the Celtic under 19 squad. Now he is with us I can show his full profile. Yeah, what should I say. Probably not as good as where I was hoping for, but at least a decent back-up for Morrison if he completely run out of form.

Because of I greyed out the player attributes when starting this game (to make it more realistic) it’s very important for me having some good scouts at the club. Of course our only scout at the club at the beginning of the game is just horrible. But we managed to get in two scouts with some better skills for judging players abilities. I directly ordered them doing research in the Scottish Championship, our league and Scotland as a whole to create a more complete picture of all the players abilities and our opponents. I think one of the scouts is a really good catch. We send our old back-up left-back Dean Hoskins on loan to Barrhead (and get loss of his big wage) and handled to getting in 36-year old John Ovenstone to become our back-up left-back and be able to combine his task as a player with being a scout.

That’s not all. A month ago one of my scouts found a player called Grant Adam. A far more decent goalkeeper then we have right now, so I decide to make him an offer. He accepts and will joining us from the beginning of January. Adam is an experienced goalkeeper with a good age, both good physical and mental abilities and decent technical skills. And, possibly the most important fact, 10 centimetres taller than Carswell is. Furthermore we have loaned out some other players who are probably not playing that much and to reduce our monthly wages a bit. Finally we sold Jack Nixon to Football Club United from England for the huge amount of zero pounds, but at least we can whipped out his wage from the wage list, needed for being financially sustainable for the long term.

Note: Thanks Justice, ScottT and LittleLaney11 for following. I hope you guys keep interested. The introduction has finished, so from now on I will post an update approximately 4-6 times per season, it depends a little bit on how many important or notable things are happening throughout the seasons. I will try to update at least once per two days, but don't count on it to hard, there is a life next to FM. Is it? Yeah it is! As long as I see we are making progress with this club I will probably stay for a long time, but it's definitely not ruled out that Henderson might be switching to another club at some point. Coming up next: our achievements until mid-December.
Can't argue with that start to the season. I like the restructuring of the Scottish divisions as it seems a lot more familiar to me as an English football follower, for sure.
A shame to lose in the Challenge cup so early on that takes away a good chance of some money. However, league form is going well, just three points off 3rd, which I wasn't sure would be possible following that poor pre-season.

#008 - Some little improvement after horror month

10/12/2019 -- The month October is definitely one to forget very soon. It must be said that Spartans faced the few better teams in the league, but still that’s not a reason for making terrible mistakes in our defence and by that dwarf under the bar. Almost every single shot from outside the box is a goal, which is annoying me. The problem is that we don’t have a good back-up for Carswell, so we really need to wait until January when we can finally replace him. The only proper highlight in October is without any doubt our victory over Berwick Rangers in their own stadium. Henderson has a history at the club and many of the fans still hate him for leaving the club, so a three points result is quite satisfying.

One match in particular made me very upset. Away against Buckie Thistle it seems we handled to win the game, but two desperate shots from distance in the additional time changed the match dramatically… Also our lost in the Scottish Cup was disappointingly, ended both our cup runs for this season quite early. But to be honest Championship side Montrose was simply too good for us and they deserve the win. We were just a bit unlucky with the draw, avoiding to give us the chance earning some extra money. Spoken about that, the financial situation of the club is not that great at the moment. Currently we have no money in the bank and our debts are prospected to be around minus £85.000 at the end of the season, despite having our wage budget in control. Hopefully we can end somewhere in the top half of the league, getting some money for our final position in the league. Ideally we qualify for the play-offs, which give us the opportunity earning some good extra money, beside of getting promoted maybe.

Something that seems quite realistic at the moment. We performed much better in November winning three out of five and draw the other two. The match against Gala Fairydean Rovers was quite spectacular. We handled to equalize a 0-3 goal difference in the second half. Also the first match in December against Wick Academy was a very welcome result. We already lost twice against them in the first month of the season, but now youngster Griffiths forced an important late winning goal, bringing us into the fourth place of the league. “A good run of form, hopefully we can lengthen it as long as possible.” Henderson said.

Note: I like this system so far Jack! I have used the english football pyramid as an example and made a few little changes for the play-offs set-up. I'ts far more enjoying then playing three or four times against the same opponent each season. It really was a shame TheLFCFan, to be honest :-). Hopefully we are performing better next season!
As you say, October was a horrible patch of form and if I'm honest I am surprised you didn't drop down further than 4th despite the great recovery throughout November! That being said, I can see a lot of competition for those Play-Off spots. Brora Rangers seem as though they are up already with that lead at the top, even if they drop into 2nd at some point due to poor form. Lining up for an interesting 2nd part of the season!
A great recovery after a really disappointing month of football. A team with great character, obviously installed in them by the management!

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