The former Newcastle United midfielder who has created more goals than Trent, Salah and De Bruyne this season

Former Newcastle United and Hull City midfielder Greg Olley lifted the National League North League title as Gateshead captain on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 6:00 pm

The Heed have enjoyed a memorable campaign to claim the fourth league title in their history and their first as a professional club.

They were captained by Olley, who first joined at the start of the ill-fated 2018-19 season following his release from Hull.

"To win the league means a lot,” Olley told The Gazette. “As I was standing there waiting by myself to come out [and lift the trophy], I just thought how good it was knowing that we were going back up.

“I love this football club and that was a really momentous occasion for myself and one I'll look back on for a long, long time with a lot of joy.”

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Olley progressed through Newcastle’s academy as a youngster before joining Hull – where he made two first-team appearances in the EFL Cup.

Now, the 26-year-old is Gateshead’s longest-serving player and played a crucial role on the pitch this season with eight goals and a staggering 28 assists to his name.

Greg Olley lifts the National League North trophy for Gateshead FC (photo: Charles Waugh).

The Tynesiders were confirmed as champions with a game to spare before beating Hereford 2-1 in front of a record league crowd of 4,129 at the International Stadium on the final day.

Fittingly, Olley set-up the first of Macaulay Langstaff’s two goals on the afternoon as the Heed ended the season on 94 points and just one goal shy of reaching 100.

With 28 assists, no player in England’s top six divisions has created more goals than Olley this season. Liverpool’s Harry Wilson is the next closest to the Heed skipper having set-up 21 goals while on loan at Fulham.

When asked how he amassed so many assists, Olley responded with a laugh: "I've got no idea!

Gateshead FC after being confirmed as National League North Champions following a 2-2 draw at Chorley in their penultimate match (photo: Gateshead FC/Jack McGraghan).

"To be fair, I’ve got Macca, Ced [Scott], Blackie [Paul Blackett] and Adam [Campbell] to put the chances away which makes a huge difference.”

Langstaff finished the season as Gateshead’s and the National League North’s top scorer with 32 goals in all competitions. Scott scored 26, Campbell netted 14 and Blackett got on the scoresheet 10 times during a prolific season for the club in front of goal.

“I'd say this is the strongest position the club has been in since I've been here,” Olley added. “When I first joined, we had a very good team then and we started the season well in the National League but we lost a lot of players and it was tough.

“But it's great now to get ourselves back in there because it's where we want to be and where we started. The last four years have been the best years of my career certainly, I’ve loved every minute of being here.

"Hopefully we can continue and have another good season next year.”

After being unceremoniously demoted from the National League due to financial irregularities caused by the club’s former owners, Gateshead were on the brink of extinction.

But a fan-led takeover ultimately saved the club at the 11th hour and Olley signed a new contract under the new player-management of former Newcastle defender Mike Williamson.

"To come back for the second year, it was different but it felt like the right change had been made,” Olley admitted. “The people who took over [Neil Pinkerton and Gateshead Soul], are still here now.

"We’ve all learned together and maybe football-wise we didn’t hit the heights of what we should have in our first season [in the National League North], we made the play-offs but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Despite a turbulent summer in 2019, Williamson was able to put a squad together that came close to securing an immediate return to non-league football’s top division while also battling the uncertainty and struggles of the coronavirus pandemic.

Williamson’s side made the play-offs in 2019-20 but were beaten in the semi-final stage at Boston United in front of an empty stadium.

Last season, which was played almost entirely behind closed doors, was then declared null and void due to Covid-19 and a lack of financial support.

But the 2021-22 campaign finally marked the return of fans and some form of normality to the National League North as the Heed were able to celebrate their title win on the pitch alongside roughly 4,000 others.

“It has made a lot of difference to do it in front of our own fans,” Olley admitted. “We could have got promoted two years ago and it would have been nice to do it then through the play-offs but it just makes it an extra special occasion and we're just so thrilled that it's done and we're ending the season with a trophy.

"I wouldn’t say it has been comfortable, I’ve been nervous personally for the last couple of months but it shows the progress that has been made here that we’re going up as Champions.

“You have to take a step back definitely and realise how far we've come. I've grown so much as a player I'm thrilled that we've managed to get it over the line.”

While a 28 assist season is bound to attract interest from clubs higher up the footballing pyramid, Olley insists he’s happy at Gateshead having recently signed a contract extension until 2024.

He can now look forward to facing clubs such as Southend United, Scunthorpe and former Premier League outfit Oldham Athletic among others next season.

And now Gateshead are no longer in a regionalised league, they also face lengthy trips to the likes of Torquay United and Yeovil Town – something Olley insists ‘is all part of the fun’.

“We have a point to prove in the National League,” the Gateshead captain continued. “We finished ninth [before a point deduction] in our last season in the division with hardly any players and we know we can compete at that level and hopefully we can do everyone proud next year.”

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