A TEENAGE football prospect from the region was celebrating last night after he won a ticket to the big league.

Carl Magnay has given up his A-level studies after he won a potentially lucrative contract with the multi-millionaire players of Chelsea.

The 17-year-old centre-half is quitting the Wearside League to join the Premiership champions after he beat thousands of other young hopefuls to win Sky TV's reality series Football Icon II.

Following trials across the country, he won a place among 40 contenders who took part in several preliminary matches at Chelsea's Surrey training complex, in the summer.

He was selected by a panel of judges, including former England star Jamie Redknapp, for the final 14 prodigies who took part in the eight-week series of skills tests.

Carl beat the challenge of Stuart Gates, from Southampton, in the final, broadcast on Sky One last night.

It ended with him being named the winner, earning congratulations from Chelsea's charismatic manager, Jose Mourinho.

Carl watched the show with thrilled parents, Paul and Jane, older sisters Gemma and Katie, plus other family and friends, on a big screen at the catholic club near his home in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street.

Carl said: "Playing professional football is something I have wanted to do all my life, and now to be able to do it with what I consider the best team is unbelievable.

"When I went to the first trial, in Newcastle, in June, and saw the hundreds and hundreds of lads there, I thought: 'What's the point?'

"I just didn't think I had a chance, but as I went through the various stages, I got more and more confident."

Chelsea's gain is Leeds' loss as the Yorkshire club opted not to offer Carl a contract when he was 15.

He will now leave behind St Robert of Newminster RC School, in Washington, and Birtley Town, of the Wearside League, to start at Chelsea's academy on January 1.

Carl is already the envy of school and team-mates, pocketing a signing on fee of £5,000, plus a £600-a-week initial salary on a six-month contract, which may be extended in the summer.

Football Icon II, the final, will be repeated on Sky One at 8am tomorrow.