Former Southampton Academy prospect terminated his professional contract at Newcastle - now he's debating going to university and staying put at Moneyfields
Olly Long’s driving ambition growing up was always to make the grade as a professional footballer - now he's contemplating studying at university as he prepares to take the next step in his life.
But the Horndean-based former Pompey triallist and Newcastle midfielder insists he would not change the journey to where he finds himself today.
Long was highly rated as a youngster and snapped up by one of England's top academy set ups at the age of 12 after shining for Havant & Waterlooville Youth.
He would spend four years coming through the system on the south coast at Southampton before his big break arrived.
Newcastle came calling after being released, offering Long a two-year scholarship deal when he was 16 and then penning a two-year professional contract on Tyneside.
Yet the former Horndean Technology College pupil, who turned out for Hampshire Premier League side Moneyfields Reserves last term, would not even see out the first year of his pro deal.
Personal problems boiled over, forcing him to take the monumental step to approach the club and ask them to terminate his contract - eventually departing in early 2018.
At that moment, everything the midfielder had worked towards his entire footballing life had slipped away - by his own choice.
But to this day, Long, now 22, feels it was the correct call and one he had to make at the time.
He said: 'I had a lot of stuff going on away from football. It was just personal stuff, that was the reason why I didn’t finish my contract there.
‘That was the time when I basically packed it in sort of thing. My scholarship was good, I started my pro contract, but there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes back home and in my personal life and stuff.
‘I literally asked to have it terminated (Newcastle contract) and I spent a bit of time after that with my head a bit all over the place going to a few different clubs and a few different things and that.
‘Ever since I was young, I’ve been obsessed with football. I haven’t really got any other hobbies, I just love football.
‘When all this stuff was going on it was almost the other end of the spectrum where you’ve gone from it being everything to almost being sick of it.'
Hometown club Pompey offered him a trial a little more than a month after leaving Newcastle.
Former boss Kenny Jackett was an admirer of the midfielder but, with the Blues pushing for the play-offs when he arrived towards the end of the 2017-18 season and Long's head still 'mashed', a deal was never tabled.
A brief spell at Isthmian League Premier Division Worthing followed in 2019 before Long dropped out of the game completely prior to signing for Moneyfields at the start of last season.
Long admitted getting accustomed to life away from football after being treated like a 'king' took some time to get used to.
But he stressed it was something that he needed - and after trying his hand at a few different jobs he's now giving university some serious thought.
Long said: 'That was the strangest, to be fair (going to work and living a normal life) but it was something I almost needed.
‘When you’re at these pro academies and that you do just get treated like a king sort of thing.
‘Coming back into the real world and just having to do stuff for yourself, being independent, it was what I needed and what was right.
‘I’ve only been thinking about that in the past few months and stuff (going to university).
‘My whole life literally has been football, I’ve gone down a few different avenues with work, but I’m almost at the stage now where I’m thinking I will go onto study. I’ve been looking at a few universities in the past month and stuff like that.
‘I’ve been looking at nutrition or I’ve been looking at other things sports-related like sports performance, sports psychology or sports science.
‘In school I did all my exams and passed all them so I hope I’d be able to do something.
‘I don’t want to miss the opportunity because once you start getting to 25 onwards it’s difficult - it’s now or never if I’m going to do that - but I really am strongly contemplating that (uni).'
Long had no urge to get back involved in football, but relented after some of his friends asked him to play alongside them at Moneys.
He admitted he was a little sceptical at first given the drop down in level from his days coming through at Southampton and around Newcastle under-23s and first team.
Long netted seven times in 11 appearances for Moneys Reserves prior to the non-elite football season curtailment.
Now, after being approached by new first team boss Glenn Turnbull, he has committed to the club for next season and will be part of the Wessex League Premier Division squad.
It's another step up in level for Long as he looks to get his love for the game back.
But he's not setting himself any unrealistic targets - although he refused to rule out a potential return to the professional game.
Long said: 'First and foremost, I want to do well for Moneyfields. With where I’ve been I’ll be disappointed if I don’t have a really good season, smash it, and look like one of the best players in that league.
'You know how football works, if you do well then people can be looking.
‘I’m still in contact with my old agent, just as a friend more than anything; over this whole period of time he’s even said about offers higher up the pyramid.
‘I’ve said to him I’m not ready for that and it’s not really what I want. All I want is to play at a local club, enjoy it, and get back into the swing of it properly. Getting back into men’s football, taking them hits.
‘I wouldn’t rule it out in the sense that if I start doing well at Moneyfields and something comes (returning to pro game).
‘To be honest, I just want to get back playing, it’s local (Moneyfields) which is a massive thing for me so I can pop down for training and stuff.
‘It’s not going to take over my life sort of thing, I can still play at a good level, earn a bit of money and still concentrate on other stuff away from it.
‘For right now, it just seems the perfect situation.'