“It’s time for the players of the NPSL to shine.”
It took just one sentence from Chattanooga FC goalkeeper Gregory Hartley to sum up what the inaugural NPSL Combine Tournament is all about. This event is for the players and all about the players. And everyone in the NPSL knows what an incredible player and person Hartley is.
Hartley came to CFC and the NPSL with quite an impressive résumé, having won the FA Youth Cup with Manchester City. He would go on to play for the Manchester City Reserves before heading to the U.S. to attend college.
His collegiate career is equally impressive thanks to successful stops at Lindsey Wilson College, Belhaven University, and Georgia Gwinnett College. He would win the NAIA National Championship in his freshman season at Lindsey Wilson, while his time at Belhaven was defined by a trip to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Tournament and a plethora of individual awards. Those included NAIA All-American, SSAC Defensive Player of the Year, SSAC All-Conference Team, NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week, and SSAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Hartley would even help Georgia Gwinnett get their men’s soccer program off the ground in a big way, setting a standard for future players to follow.
Earning awards became ordinary for Hartley, who collected loads of recognition from his time in the NPSL. From All-League to Goalkeeper of the Year honors, Hartley has made the argument that he is indeed the best goalkeeper in the entire league.
On top of that, Hartley has gained the reputation of just being a winner. Thanks to his success in England and being in two of the last three NPSL title matches, the Manchester native has simply gotten the job done.
Now Hartley finds himself very close to returning to the professional game, this time in the U.S. He might not have prototypical size for a professional goalkeeper, but Hartley more than makes up for that in terms of speed, athleticism, and agility. Teammates praise Hartley for his passion and drive, knowing that having such an aggressive and talented goalkeeper means winning more games.
Having seen and experienced the rigors of playing at one of the world’s biggest clubs means that Hartley won’t be surprised or intimidated by anything he will encounter as a pro here in the States. He is calm, cool, and collected, making him the ideal pro.
And no one would be happier to see Hartley go pro than the Chattahooligans. It is easy to see that Hartley has a special connection with the team’s supporters’ group.
“If you live in Chattanooga and you don’t know who the Chattahooligans are, you must be a tourist. The Chattahooligans and all the fans are the heart and soul of the team. We have the best fans in the league, if not better than some of the pro teams. You could say the fans are our 12th man.”
Hartley will need their support and that of the Chattanooga community as he takes this next step in his career. This weekend is a gamechanger, just like the Chattanooga man between the posts.