From chaos to champions: Greg Olley on Gateshead’s remarkable journey

The Heed will receive the National League North champions trophy on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 11:32 pm

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<p>Gateshead celebrate their National League North title win</p>

Gateshead celebrate their National League North title win

A proud Greg Olley has stressed Gateshead’s National League North title win was on behalf of “everyone involved at a fantastic football club”.

The Heed are getting ready to celebrate their first league title win since 1996 when they take on Hereford in front of what is anticipated to be a strong crowd at the International Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The game will round off what has been a memorable season for Mike Williamson’s side after they defied pre-season odds to secure a return to non-league’s top tier.

It also makes another significant step froward from the worrying events of three years ago when the clubs were taken to within 72 hours of going out of business by their former owners.

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A last-minute rescue package put together by a supporter-led consortium hauled the Heed back from the brink and they have never looked back.

After a narrow miss with a play-off defeat at Boston United in 2020, any thoughts of a return to the National League were parked when last season was curtailed by Covid-19.

But there was no mistake this time around as Olley and his team-mates secured the National League North title and set off emotions scenes of celebration with a 2-2 draw at Chorley on Monday afternoon.

All eyes now turn towards more celebrations on Saturday afternoon and Olley is adamant he will be lifting the trophy for a whole host of key people within the club.

Gateshead captain Greg Olley in action during the Emirates FA Cup Second Round match between Gateshead and Charlton Athletic (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He told The Echo: “I am proud to captain this group of players and I will be proud to lift the trophy.

“I am the captain but I am no different to anyone else at the club because we are all in this together and that is why we have achieved what we have achieved.

“Yes, I will lift the trophy, but I am lifting it on behalf of each and every player, coach, volunteer and supporters here.

“It will be a proud moment and if I could pass it around everyone in Gateshead I would because winning the league was done for everyone involved at a fantastic football club.”

There is a desire and a need to move on from the chaotic events that caused genuine concern over Gateshead’s future during the 2018/19 season.

Despite their positive on-field performances under Steve Watson and Ben Clark, controversy behind the scene ultimately put paid to a surprise play-off bid in the final week of the National League North season.

Key figures remained at the club following the supporter-led takeover and the slow, methodical rebuild that has taken place over the last two years.

Gateshead player/manager Mike Williamson in action. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images).

Olley is keen to start a new chapter with their return to the National League - but revealed the events that hampered his first season at the club have played a key role in developing the togetherness with the club that remains prevalent to this day.

“I think what we have achieved this season has come from those difficult times a few years back,” he admitted.

“Myself, Mike (Williamson), Jack (Hunter), Tinks (Robbie Tinkler) and Elliott (Forbes) were all involved in that as players and there were a few others behind the scenes around then too.

“We had five or six of us there and we try and embed all of that emotion, strength and the lessons we learnt into what comes into the dressing room each year.

“It took a toll on us all, it hurt the fans, but then because of them the rebuilding stage started over those two years that have followed and have put in the foundations for this season.”

Those foundations have been built upon in spectacular fashion with player-manager Mike Williamson, assistant Ian Watson and player-coach Louis Storey piecing together a close-knit squad.

The summer additions of former Newcastle United duo Owen Bailey and Adam Campbell, Carlisle United striker Cedwyn Scott and former Heed full-back Robbie Tinkler have all paid off.

Owen Bailey in action for Gateshead. Picture by Charles Waugh.

Loan additions like Jacob Chapman, Matty Jacob, Taylor Charters, Filip Marschall and Connor Malley have all bought into the ethos put in place by Williamson and Watson.

And the return of former Gateshead star Carl Magnay has brought back memories of the not-too-distant past when the club came within 90 minutes of a place in the Football League when they fell to a narrow defeat to Cambridge United in the 2014 National League promotion final.

But more than anything, every member of the Gateshead squad is aware of the importance of the bond forged with supporters over the recent past.

And Olley revealed that bond will remain strong when they take on the likes of Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United and Southend United in next season’s National League.

“From the first game of my first season, at Maidenhead away, we had a strong away support and they must have set off at six in the morning,” revealed the former Newcastle United academy midfielder.

“They stuck with us through everything that has gone on and we don’t take that for granted.

“You could see their relief, their jubilation and happiness at Chorley on Monday.

“That is exactly the way it was in the dressing room and sharing those moments on the pitch with them was very special.

“We are all in it together and we will carry that mindset on into the National League next season.”