Gateshead midfielder Greg Olley has described winning his first England ‘C’ cap as “the icing on the cake” of a remarkable season.
The former Newcastle United youngster was handed a maiden call-up to the Three Lions non-league squad for Tuesday night’s International Challenge match against their Wales counterparts.
Olley was named in the starting line-up alongside Heed team-mate Jon Mellish and the second-half introduction of midfielder Tom White made it a trio of representatives from the National League play-off challengers.
Olley came close to marking his debut with a goal when he latched on to a long-pass from White and struck the post with a looped effort that deceived Wales keeper Alex Ramsey.
The Three Lions had to settle for a 2-2 draw, but that took nothing away from a special night for Olley and his fellow Gateshead team-mates.
He told the Gazette: “The news I was in the squad came out of the blue and I actually found out over Twitter.
“It was a proud moment and I think we a lot of the squad have experienced setbacks from the academy system.
“You think your chance has gone, but then you see the shirt, with the three lions, with your name on the back and it fills you with pride, knowing that you are representing the country.
“I think it shows just how well we have done this season when we had myself, Jon and Tom in the squad.
“It made me proud to hear some of the England C lads saying how well we were doing at Gateshead.
“I was nervous, but you just go out their to do your best.
“The gaffer Paul Fairclough said to enjoy it and if we play to our capability, we could win the game.
“They came with a game plan and they pulled it off.
“We could have won the game on another night.
“But, whatever the result, playing for England was the icing on the cake this season.”
Olley has made a significant impact at Gateshead since he joined the club last summer.
The 23-year-old moved to the International Stadium club within a month of his release from Hull City and has gone on to become a key part of the Heed’s unexpected play-off push.
He has scored eight goals in 34 appearances and he believes that there is no reason why the club can’t secure a place in the top seven of the National League between now and the end of the season.
“I couldn’t have wished for the season at Gateshead to go any better.
"When I joined, we didn’t have any players, we were favourites for relegation, and to be honest it was a risk to sign.
“But I am playing regularly, and I always knew that was the benefit of joining the club.
“We have a small squad, and a young squad, but some of the academy lads have joined us now and they are doing well in training, so they may get their chance.
“We are still in and around the play-off places and Harrogate Town’s defeat last night opens it up again.
“We are two points of those places, and we have got to play three of top six, so we have to take points off them.
“Two points is nothing, and we know that we can get ourselves in that top seven.
“And anything can happen from there.”
Gateshead are without a game this weekend, but return to National League action when they visit Braintree Town on Saturday 30th March.