Liam Henderson has returned to Edinburgh City from Australia not because the antipodean lifestyle wasn’t for him, but because he believes the standard of football in Scotland – even part-time – is higher.
The former Hearts youngster initially joined City last November on a loan deal from Falkirk, which was made permanent in January.
The chance to sample life and football Down Under was one he couldn’t turn down however and manager James McDonaugh allowed the versatile 23-year-old to cancel the remainder of his contract at Ainslie Park to head to the other side of the world and join up with Stirling Lions in the National Premier League Western Australia.
Whilst he enjoyed the experience, he feels playing in Scotland again will better serve him given the comparative quality between here and Oz.
“It was great,” he said of his six months there. “The lifestyle and experience and everything was brilliant, it’s just the standard of football wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was still good in some aspects of the game, but it just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought to myself ‘I don’t know why I’m still here’ when I could be back in Scotland and try and push myself again.
“It’s hard to judge what the equivalent level over here would be. I reckon maybe a Junior side would maybe be the best comparison.”
Henderson did catch the coaching bug while he was away, however. “I was coaching at a boys club called Subiaco while I was there,” he said. “That was brilliant. I loved that and it was actually quite hard to say goodbye to the kids and stuff. You get a bond with them which was really good.
“It’s made me want to do more coaching here. Josh Walker [City captain] has just started up his own business [Foot Forward Coaching] that does one-to-one coaching. We’ve had a little chat so hopefully in the future we can get something sorted out.”
In terms of playing, Henderson had other options to choose from, but felt he owed McDonaugh for his and the club’s understanding in allowing him to pursue his life-changing opportunity last season.
“I had a few choices but the gaffer was very honest in letting me go,” he explained. “I know how he works, how he trains and he’s built quite a good squad this year so I thought I’d show a bit of loyalty and come back.”
McDonaugh’s new-look side sit top of the Ladbrokes League Two table after last Saturday’s 4-0 opening day dismantling of Albion Rovers, which leaves Henderson with a job on his hands forcing his way in to the starting eleven for tomorrow’s trip to Elgin.
“It’s a different squad and has a lot more depth compared to when I left,” he said. “They’ve done well since I’ve been back so I’m not just going to walk back in to the team. I need to get my head down and work hard.
“My fitness is good though. When I left in January I was still playing and over in Australia that was their pre-season so I’ve not really stopped! I haven’t really had a break so I’m fully fit.
“As for our start, we just need to stay level headed and take each game as it comes. A lot of people might be talking now about us doing well this year and blah, blah blah, but we can’t pay attention to that.”
More hat-tricks from namesake striker Blair would certainly help. “Big up the other Hendo!” laughed the more defensive version. “It’s a great start for him personally and that’s what you need in a team don’t you? Someone who can score goals regularly.”
As for his own position, that’s up in the air. He spent his previous spell mostly on the left hand side of defence or wing back, but the addition of Robbie McIntyre may mean more of a midfield berth at times.
“I’m not actually sure where the gaffer might want to play me this year,” Henderson admitted. “I just need to be ready for when the call comes and he wants to play me, wherever that is I’ll go and do a job.”