Robert Olejnik tells Chris Burton of his delight at being back in English football with Torquay.
Last Updated: 02/11/11 7:36pm
Sometimes it is necessary to take the scenic route to the top, with it not always possible to tread the most direct path.
Various obstacles can be thrown in your way, meaning it can take a little longer than initially hoped to reach the summit of your particular mountain.
In footballing terms, the Premier League represents the pinnacle of the English game.
Only a select few can grace that lofty level, though, and there are only so many places up for grabs.
Given that all of those competing on that particular stage have Academy systems bursting at the seams with the best young talent hand-picked from their local area and the rest of the world, there are always going to be more players who find themselves stepping off the beaten path than those that are ushered straight down the yellow brick road.
There is, however, nothing to say that these players will not make it back, or that they will not go on to enjoy a productive career elsewhere - perhaps away from the glare of the top-flight spotlight.
One man who is in the process of making his way back up the ladder after taking a few steps down is Robert 'Bobby' Olejnik, an Austrian goalkeeper who has ended up at Torquay after making stops at Austria Vienna, Aston Villa, Lincoln City and Falkirk.
He joined Villa as a promising teenager in 2003, but was unable to force his way into the first-team picture after graduating through their youth system.
A loan spell at Lincoln also proved to be disappointing, as he failed to get vital minutes under his belt, and he eventually upped sticks to Scotland in 2007.
Four years with Falkirk followed, allowing Olejnik to take in regular games and get his first proper taste of British football.
Having fine-tuned his trade with the Bairns, he opted to return to England this summer when Torquay came calling, with a second shot at life south of the border proving too good to turn down.
He has settled quickly at Plainmoor and is happy with the course his career has taken to date.
Olejnik told skysports.com's Chris Burton: "I felt like I settled in from the first week, to be honest. I was made to feel welcome - the gaffer, the goalkeeping coach, everyone has helped me from day one."
Torquay snapped him up on 1st July, but the 24-year-old insists his summer was a lot more stressful than it may first appear.
He said: "To other people it might have seemed pretty quick, but to me it was quite nerve-wracking because we knew that the finances in Scotland were quite tight. Last season finished on 7th May and I hadn't anything by then. Other seasons were still going on and I was looking to try and get something sorted for the first week in July, that was my target. So for me it was a bit of a waiting game and then one day my agent rang me and I went back to my old club, just to train and keep fit, and he rang me and said, 'do you fancy coming down here?'.
"The gaffer in Scotland had given me a deadline, because they wanted to keep me and they wanted to know where I stood. It was nothing to do with money, I just needed to decide where was the right place to develop my football. The gaffer gave me a deadline of 1st July and a couple of days before that my agent rang me and said Torquay are keen. I didn't need too much convincing."
Olejnik signed a two-year contract upon completing the long journey from the Forth Valley to the south coast and he is convinced that he made the right choice in joining the Gulls.
Asked if he had any other options to consider, he said: "Falkirk wanted me to stay as well. There was interest rather than actually anything direct. It was mostly just clubs saying we want to have a look at you, we will talk, we need to sign a couple of other players first and when we have got those then we will look at our finances. There were a lot of those sort of conversations, rather than we want to have you."
Torquay made it clear from the off that they wanted Olejnik on board and a feeling that he still has unfinished business with English football helped to tempt the former Austria U21 international to Devon.
He said: "I have always wanted to have a shot in England. I have never really had the opportunity. I went to Lincoln for a bit but never really played. I have always wanted to see what it's about. It used to be exciting watching the Football League show up in Scotland and since I have come down here I have enjoyed every single day so much. I wasn't expecting it to be this good, but it's so different to football up in Scotland."
While Olejnik feels he has some issues to address with the game in England, he is thankful to Villa for handing him a Premier League schooling that has stood him in good stead.
"That's why I wanted to come back and have another shot," he said.
"When I was at Villa I got to train with some amazing players and an amazing goalkeeping coach. Just watching the likes of Thomas Sorensen, Peter Enckelman, Stefan Postma helped - everyone up there was a great goalkeeper. Just having been around that sort of team for four years, I have to work really hard to make sure I get back to that level and have a proper go of it."
England may always have been the ultimate goal, but Olejnik admits he will look back fondly on the time he spent at Falkirk.
He said: "It has taught me so much. Scotland is a good place to develop your football. It was the right choice at that time. It helps you to develop because you get to play against Celtic and Rangers and teams like that. It's a good place to develop and learn your trade.
"You might not be able to experience playing in front of 50-60,000 down here as often as you do in Scotland, but you come down here and the standards have gone up again. Since I have started, I felt Scotland was a good league and I have never really seen too many games down here while I was up there, but coming back I have seen that the standard is so high."
Things have not gone entirely to plan for Torquay on the field this season, but back-to-back victories in their last two fixtures suggest they are turning the corner.
Olejnik said: "We have had a little spell, but I think every team has that. We haven't been doing too much wrong, it was just a matter of communication, working as a team and people doing the right things. We have got that right in the last couple of games and that's really pleasing. We have kept clean sheets in back-to-back games for only the second time this season, so that's positive."
A bright start to the campaign has helped to keep Torquay within touching distance of the top seven, with only five points separating them from the play-off places despite their recent eight-match winless run.
"That's our target," said Olejnik.
"The majority of the squad from what they achieved last season is still here. The belief of the squad is, 'why not do one better this year?'. We want to get back into the play-offs and if you put a good run of form together you can start climbing the league, as we all know. I think the targets are the same as last year."
Torquay finished seventh last season, going on to lose to Stevenage in the play-off final, and Olejnik is confident they can better that effort despite the level of competition in the fourth tier having risen once again in the last 12 months.
He said: "In League Two you have got some tough teams. Crawley have come up and are already up at the top, Southend are doing well and Wimbledon have done well. You can see how tough the division can be, but most of the players from last season are still here and the gaffer has made some great signings. I don't see why we can't do that."
Olejnik prefers to work to short-term targets at the moment, with promotion representing just one step on a long and winding road.
"I just like to think year-to-year," he said when asked about his hopes for the future.
"I think everyone has a major target in their head, but I am just trying to think week-to-week. We have got Crewe on Saturday, so I want to win that, then we have got Chesterfield away, and that will be another tough test. It's just really about doing as well as I can this season. I have then got another year and I am hoping to play as many games as I can and play as well as I can. It's football and things can change, but right now I just want to do as well as I can for Torquay.
"How many players do you see move up through the divisions? It happens every single summer, especially with the finances being tight and teams having to look within the leagues. I'm not saying I want to move or anything like that, but you have to think that things happen when players are doing their job well. My main aim now is to do my best for Torquay and takes things slowly."