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Ex-Newcastle United academy graduate opens up on his rollercoaster football career as Gateshead clinch stunning promotion - 'I’m emotional, very emotional'

Louis Storey may have experienced something of a rollercoaster ride in football - but things are very much on the up right now.

By Mark Carruthers
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 12:47 pm

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Louis Storey may have experienced something of a rollercoaster ride in football - but things are very much on the up right now. Picture: Jack McGraghan
Louis Storey may have experienced something of a rollercoaster ride in football - but things are very much on the up right now. Picture: Jack McGraghan

After being a regular in Newcastle United’s academy setup for over a decade, Storey was released by the Magpies in the same summer Alan Smith, Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands also left St James’s Park.

Storey drifted out of the professional game as he spent four years with Ebac Northern League club Team Northumbria before he became part of South Shields ambitious project in the summer of 2016.

After suffering a broken leg and severe ankle ligament damage within two months of joining the Mariners, he returned to fitness to help Graham Fenton and Lee Picton’s side to a historic quadruple that was finalised in an FA Vase Final win over Cleethorpes Town in May 2017.

Gateshead players celebrate. Picture: Jack McGraghan.

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Another league title win followed 12 months later when South Shields were crowned as Northern Premier League North champions - but Storey returned to the Northern League with Hebburn Town in the summer of 2018.

Three years with the Hornets culminated with a promotion into the Northern Premier League and Storey made history as he captained Kevin Bolam’s side to their 2020 FA Vase Final win against Consett.

Now, a year to the day since he led out the Hornets at Wembley, Storey’s career has hit new heights as he sits in the dugout at Chorley’s Victory Park, minutes after helping Gateshead become National League North champions in his first season back in the full-time game.

There was some surprise when the Heed made a move for Storey last summer.

After all, he had plied his trade as a part-time player for over a decade and spent the last three seasons playing three levels lower in the non-league pyramid.

But their judgement and trust has been repaid in abundance with the centre-back providing a level of consistency and professionalism that allowed a seamless transition into Mike Williamson’s squad.

Storey is approaching a half-century of appearances for the season after helping the Heed to their first league title since 1986 and to a televised FA Cup second round tie against League One club Charlton Athletic.

Far from looking out of place, the Geordie defender has flourished at a higher level.

Yet despite this success and unexpected change in his circumstances, there is humility and respect for those that have helped him along the way.

“It was something I reflected on last night to be honest,” an emotional Storey told The Gazette.

“It was just a nice moment to think about how far I have come in the last 12 months and the people that have helped me from Hebburn Town to where I am now.

“It’s something that wasn’t even on my horizon and I am not afraid to say football is my life and my passion.

“It’s been everything since I was a little boy - and now I am living the dream of being a full-time player and coach at an unbelievable football club.

“If it wasn’t for those people giving me that platform, helping me grow and develop, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be winning the National League North.

“I’m emotional, very emotional.

“Coming back into full-time football has really rekindled the fire in my life.

“There’s been a lot of change and I think I’ve changed a lot as a person and as a player.”

If the move back into the full-time game was a surprise to many, Storey revealed he would count himself amongst that number.

After a decade in the part-time game, the Heed player-coach revealed a career in professional football “wasn’t on the radar” when Gateshead management team Mike Williamson and Ian Watson came calling last summer.

There could be a temptation to show that he has proven the doubters and non-believers wrong - but Storey preferred to focus on him and the self-improvement that has become the hallmarks of Gateshead’s successful season.

He said: “Maybe I have (proven people wrong) in the sense that as a Northern League player, people may see your ceiling as the next division up - but it’s not about that, it’s just about being the best I can be.

“I’ve had a lot of hiccups, as the vast majority of players in the part-time or full-time game have.

“I had my journey at Newcastle, at South Shields, and I think, if anything, I knew I was capable of playing at a higher level and potentially moved away from that mentally.

“I was happy being a part-time player and a full-time coach.

“Making the switch wasn’t on the radar - but I’m loving each and every minute and I am determined to keep improving in everything I do.”

A historic season for both Storey and the Heed will come to a close on Saturday afternoon when Hereford visit the International Stadium.

But once that fixture is complete, and the celebrations die down, Gateshead will turn their focus towards mixing it with the likes of Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United and Southend United in non-league’s top tier next season.

Unsurprisingly, after suffering the blows of release and injury throughout his career, Storey is taking a positive approach and is already “relishing” the challenges that lie in wait as he takes the next step in his career.

“Nine months ago, at the start of the season, I was asked how I was feeling,” he explained.

“I was relishing the season back then too - but I feel the culture we have at this football club has been engrained by Mike and Busted (Watson) and it’s a no-fear mentality.

“We face every challenge with that mentality and we know it will test us as players and as coaches.

“It might not always go our way but we know we will bounce back and improve ourselves each and every time.

“It’s a huge challenge but one I am really relishing.”