HE may be making be a big leap but Michael Mackay will be given every chance to bridge the gap from the Northern League to the Football League.

Hartlepool United last week signed the Consett striker on an 18-month contract after he netted 43 goals this season and 82 in 70 outings for the club.

Mackay had scored twice in as many trial games for Darlington and was offered a deal, but the longer contract on offer at Victoria Park swayed his decision.

Now, after working his notice at Birtley Leisure Centre, the 24-year-old is coming to terms with life as a professional footballer.

"He's scored a hell of a lot of goals in his short amateur career,'' said Pools boss Danny Wilson.

"He's raw and untried but there is plenty to work on - the raw materials are there.

"I think he's got a chance, the hunger is there. That's as far as it goes right now, but we will give him every opportunity.

"He wants to have a good crack at it and we will give him that and see what we can make of the boy

"It's a bit of a rarity for a club to take someone on fresh at 24, who hasn't been through the youth system somewhere, but it can work.

"Sometimes you can find a little diamond like that, but if you look at his scoring record it's very good.

"Look at Michael Owen and, I don't know, say Alan Shearer. They have scored goals all their lives, scored plenty when they were kids at whatever level.

"It's a habit to get into and Michael has that habit of scoring goals. It comes naturally to some people and we would like to think it will come naturally to him.''

With Pools flying high in League Two, Mackay will be given a chance to adapt to his new career before being pushed into the first-team squad.

Wilson said: "Every player who comes into this club realises the difference in fitness levels between here and other clubs. This is a place where things are done correctly and fitness and professionalism are big, big things.

"It will be a hell of a step up for the boy, but let's see if he can come up to the standards we are looking for.

"It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a case of pitching him straight into the first team, there's no need to do that and it wouldn't be fair. He will be given a chance to settle, get to know the players and what we are all about and hopefully take it on from there.''

Consett have agreed a ten per cent sell-on clause and Wilson will take a side to Belle Vue Park for a pre-season friendly.

Pools have also offered the club the pick of the club's fringe players on loan.