This interview is taken from issue 215 of HeedLines, sold at the Vanarama National League fixture against Altrincham.
Greg Olley joined an exclusive club last week.
The skipper’s appearance last Tuesday night against Wealdstone took him to the 200 mark in black and white, just under three months after passing the five-year mark as a Gateshead player.
Olley is the first player to hit that tally since former captain Ben Clark, whom he shares the privilege of being the only two players to lead The Heed out at Wembley Stadium after doing so in May.
The 27-year-old has given some of the best years of his career when he arguably could have plied his trade at a higher level, but he insists he still owes a great deal to his adopted home.
“It has taken longer than it probably should have but I’m really proud to have knocked up such a number, not many players will get to play that many games for one specific team,” he said.
“I think I’ve played 203 games in my senior career and 201 have been here – I owe a lot to Gateshead.
“They put in faith in me when no one else would five or six years ago, so hopefully I’ve repaid some of that.”
The Greg Olley prior to July 2018 was much-less settled than the one of 2023, with the midfielder attempting to find his way in professional football after being released by Hull City.
The offers on the table were scarce to non-existent, and it took a chance conversation from one of his former coaches to take him to Gateshead, then as an entirely unknown quantity.
“I didn’t have any club, or anything really, in the pipeline,” he said.
“Gateshead weren’t even the ones to get in touch, it was Peter Beardsley that spoke to Steve Watson.
“The club took me in at a time when I had nothing, so I do feel like I still owe something.
“I always say that I never came out of my shell until I was 21 or 22, and leaving under-23’s football behind for the first time and coming to Gateshead probably meant I had to come out a bit more.
“Now, I feel like I’m confident and can express myself a lot more.
“Being given the role of captain has brought even more out of me, and made me a better person on the pitch, as well as off the pitch.”
Since taking over as captain ahead of the 2021/22 season, Olley and Gateshead’s trajectory has only gone upwards.
Winning the National League North title in 2022 – with Olley recording a whopping 28 assists – was followed by the midfielder becoming part of the first Gateshead side to reach the FA Trophy final in May.
Those accolades don’t just happen overnight though, and the seeds were first sown when he was deciding whether to re-sign after the club was demoted in 2019.
“Ian was on the phone to me pretty much every day trying to get me to sign!” he said.
“The last four years have probably been the best that I’ve had in football.
“Mike being in charge is one of the main factors, he plays the way that I want to play football, and two years ago he made me captain.
“He showed some faith where other managers haven’t in my career, and I feel like I’m wanted here.
“You hear a lot of talk, especially with social media nowadays, about loyalty and there being a lack of it in football.
“With the National League being so close to League Two, you’ll see a lot more players start to leave and move higher up, so it is definitely harder to stay at one club.
“I’ve committed to Gateshead, and it’s such a good environment to be in.
“We play football that I want to play, I’m the captain of the club, and I still want to continue here and climb the leagues.”
Feeling at home on the pitch can only come while feeling the same away from it, and eagle-eyed supporters may have spotted a growing collection of artistry Olley takes with him everywhere he goes.
Tattoos of his three pets on his left forearm – two dogs and one cat – is soon to become four, while his right arm is adorned with a trio of his favourite films.
“I have my two dogs and my cat with the outline of their faces – I still need my other cat!” he said.
“Their names are Rupert, Rosa and Reginald, and then Raymond will be going on this arm as well.
“On my right arm, if we go in order, there’s a quote from Inception: “dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange.”
“Then, the Batman symbol for The Dark Knight, and the Endurance from Interstellar.
“Christopher Nolan is a very good director, it’s just a coincidence that they all happen to be his films!”
Back to on-field matters, and things are more promising than ever for Olley and company.
A fine start to the season sees Gateshead well in the play-off mix, and although each game is as tough as the last, the skipper wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The toughness of the league helps you enjoy it a little bit more,” he added.
“The schedule is so demanding, but I’m enjoying playing with the lads, and the football we’re playing at the minute is unbelievable.
“Long may it continue.”